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A-level students given wrong grades – and face losing university places if errors not fixed TODAY

Thousands of A-level students were given the wrong results after the AQA exam board wrongly marked them down as absent for papers they actually sat – leaving them faced with the prospect of losing their university place. 

After the release of A-Level and GCSE results this month, hundreds of UK families have faced a ‘nightmare’ few weeks after teenagers were incorrectly marked as absent or results were ‘not classified’ from AQA exams.

This includes many A-Level students who were informed they had lost their university places as a result.

Multiple families told MailOnline students on results day opened up their results and found they had been graded a U, being later informed at least one exam had been marked as ‘unattended’.

Some of these students had special exam requirements which led to them being seated separately from their peers. 

MailOnline is aware of several reports that the number of mistakes could be as high as 4,000, but this is strongly disputed by AQA, who claim the figure is lower. AQA has declined to say what their actual figure is. 

Some of the students’ names have been changed to protect their identity.

Students received their A-Level results on August 18 - but thousands are said to have faced disappointment after being'incorrectly marked absent' from exams they sat

Students received their A-Level results on August 18 – but thousands are said to have faced disappointment after being ‘incorrectly marked absent’ from exams they sat

While families tried to get U grades overturned so their children could still go to university, AQA staff walked out on strike. Pictured: AQA staff with Unison general secretary Christina McAnea (centre in black blazer)

While families tried to get U grades overturned so their children could still go to university, AQA staff walked out on strike. Pictured: AQA staff with Unison general secretary Christina McAnea (centre in black blazer)

Amber Bennett, 18, missed out on an offer to study Medicine at UCL, despite receiving an incredible three A* grades

Amber Bennett, 18, missed out on an offer to study Medicine at UCL, despite receiving an incredible three A* grades

Most students who contacted their universities were able to get their places held until the end of August, giving AQA around two weeks to correct these grades.

Meanwhile AQA staff have been on strike throughout key periods in August while desperate families were trying to get answers. 

This included only two days of normal workforce capacity between August 17 and August 28 – despite universities only being able to hold students’ places until today, August 31.

Amber Bennett, 18, achieved 3 A* grades in her A-levels – but still missed out on her place at university after her biology coursework was marked as ‘not classified’.

Like thousands of students, she received a UCAS notification early on A-level results day, prior to collecting her results, to tell her that the status on her university applications had changed. 

Amber needed A*, A, A to study Medicine at UCL, or A,A,B to study at the same university in Sport and Exercise Medical Sciences.

Her father Karl said: ‘When she logged on to her UCAS account, it said she was unsuccessful on both courses. So we assumed that she had achieved below the A, A, B grades. 

‘She was obviously very down and so I drove her to school to collect her results. 

‘She opened them up and had achieved three A* grades! We were left really confused. Why was she unsuccessful?’

Amber phoned UCL, who said her practical element in biology had been marked as ‘Not Classified’ – effectively a fail. 

Karl told MailOnline that Amber’s teacher, who had overseen and marked her practical elements, told them later on results day she had passed the practical, and the school would be in touch with the exam board to find out what had happened.

Amber repeatedly tried to contact AQA on results day, but was unable to get through. Finally, she was given an email address – before being told to forward her details to a different email address.

AQA informed her that her result would be amended on the Wednesday of the following week. Karl said: ‘But on Wednesday, the teacher could not access the AQA site. Eventually they said it would be available on Thursday at 8am. She could now access the website but no results slip.’

In the meantime, Amber’s teacher gave her the number for AQA. 

Karl said: ‘So Amber called them and she was fobbed off with a reply along the lines of ‘Only your schools examinations officer can deal with this’.’

This line from AQA was repeated by all of the families spoken to by MailOnline. AQA denies the allegation that they ‘fobbed students off’ and said it is standard procedure to only discuss individual results with schools and exam officers.

Eventually, Amber’s UCAS account changed to say her place was awaiting confirmation. Amber called UCL and they confirmed they could now see her pass mark and were processing the change, meaning she will be able to study medicine. 

But she only discovered this by checking her account online. AQA told MailOnline as they only discuss results with the exams officer at a school, they do not contact individual students to inform them of their results change.

Karl was left angry by the experience. He told MailOnline: ‘We have heard nothing from AQA, not even to confirm they have fixed the problem.’

He contacted AQA on social media, writing: ‘The school has been chasing your teams for a week and still this has not been resolved.

‘Instead of celebrating a fantastic set of results and looking forward to Uni she is left without a place through no fault of her own. She only has a week left before her place is lost.

‘Please do not let all of her hard work and sacrifices count for nothing.’

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Peter (not his real name), whose sister Kate (not her real name) discovered on results day she had missed out on both her university offers, spent days trying to contact AQA after her ‘whole life was uprooted’ with an incorrect U grade in her Applied General Business qualification.

In January 2021, when most of the UK was in lockdown, AQA gave Kate’s school the option for students to sit a teacher-based assessment instead of a planned exam for one unit.

Students were informed they would not be penalised for choosing this option.

But on results day she and seven other students all received a U grade after being marked as absent – although other students in the class, who also sat the teacher-based assessment, were given the correct grade.

Peter said: ‘This has completely uprooted her whole life as all she’s ever wanted to do was attend university.

‘It has absolutely destroyed her mental health and wellbeing, she won’t even leave her bed due to depression and anxiety of it not being sorted out.

‘We’re all worried for her and I have personally explained this to AQA multiple times but have seen no progress or help from them at all.’

Speaking about her dejection after finding herself without a university place, he said: ‘My sister has been rejected from university through no fault of her own.

‘It’s upsetting because my sister should be celebrating her results and going to her first choice university.

‘After explaining the issue to the university they gave her offer back and agreed to hold it until 31 August. 

‘She has spent the last five years constantly revising to secure this place.

‘It feels like they [AQA] don’t care and we’re not being listened to. It feels like empty promises, as if they just say what they have to to get us off the phone.’

When Kate’s teacher got in touch with AQA, they were told her result would be processed by the end of this week – after the university’s deadline.

Peter added: ‘She feels let down. For all these students, their lives are effectively ruined.’

When students’ university places go unconfirmed, it is a race to receive the correct grades by August 31, because this is the last day that universities will accept a grade change.

But it’s not just the place itself which is in jeopardy – students also miss out on offers of accommodation and usually cannot even enter clearing if their result is pending or being investigated. 

Dozens of school teachers have attempted to contact AQA via Twitter amid frustration about missing or lost results entered a second week. 

A spokesperson for AQA said: ‘It’s normal in any year to have some pending results for a number of reasons, and these represent a really tiny proportion of the 3 million+ grades we award each summer. But we know how hard students have worked for these results – and our teams work to resolve them as quickly as possible.

‘We have a priority, fast-track process whenever there’s a university place involved, and we have a dedicated team who work with schools, colleges and Ucas to meet their deadlines.’ 

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Unison General Secretary Christina McAnea said staff at AQA'do really important, demanding jobs and deserve decent pay'

Unison General Secretary Christina McAnea said staff at AQA ‘do really important, demanding jobs and deserve decent pay’

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Multiple teachers posted on social media in the last 24 hours to say they were still missing results or waiting on appeals ahead of the deadline today

Multiple teachers posted on social media in the last 24 hours to say they were still missing results or waiting on appeals ahead of the deadline today

An autistic teen also had an exam marked as unattended after he had to sit it at a different centre to most of his schoolmates due to his exam requirements.

His mother, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that three people in his class were in the same position, and all three were marked absent by AQA despite having sat the exam.

Why are AQA staff on strike? 

180 staff members at AQA have walked out in repeated strikes this August in an ongoing dispute over pay.

Members of Unison have walked out on August 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27, and 28.

This included staff in customer services ​who would normally take calls from schools, parents and pupils about the results.

​Unison said wages ​at AQA increased last year by just 0.6% percent – and this year’s offer is less than a third of the current lowest measure of inflation.

It added the dispute will only end if AQA agrees to talk to its staff, but the exam board refuses to do so.

UNISON ​North West regional manager Vicky Knight said: ‘Last year staff were given a meagre wage rise. AQA employees are struggling to make ends meet and simply cannot afford to accept the miserly pay award on offer.

‘On top of this, AQA is threatening dismissal and re-engagement if staff don’t accept. Threatening the dreadful practice of fire and rehire is no way to make progress in a dispute. AQA managers must come back to the table and discuss a fair resolution.’

General secretary Christina McAnea said: ‘Our AQA members do really important, demanding jobs and deserve decent pay.’ 

‘It’s time AQA treated their staff fairly instead of undermining their own workforce.’

 AQA recently said in a statement on their website: ‘You may have heard that Unison has announced more strike action in August, and we’d like to reassure you that this will not affect schools and students getting their results this summer.

‘Our priority is always to make sure students get the results they deserve on time – and the robust plans that prevented any disruption in July will continue to be effective throughout future strikes.’ 

He had secured a place at the University of Nottingham with all the disability services he needed.

She said: ‘My son was initially four years behind his peers when he joined secondary school.

‘On results day, we got in contact with AQA straight away. I spoke to someone at AQA who told me 4,000 mistakes with A-Level mistakes had been made.

‘We all feel physically drained. It took a week to get everything sorted, I was on the phone to AQA for two hours a day, I went to my MP and everything.

‘We were told the university would hold his place, and accommodation, until the 31st.

‘This is a young man who has worked his socks off and now due to your fault has lost his place it is heartbreaking.’

It was not just A-Level results which saw problems for AQA students.

Joshua Greenway, 16, was marked absent for one of his Biology GCSE papers which he sat in a different room due to his exam requirements for dyslexia.

This mean he received a 4, equivalent to a C – but far below his predicted grade. 

He is going on to sixth form to study Physics, Maths and Computer Science – and although his Biology grade is a pass, Mike said it needs to be corrected because of his science focus at college. 

He described the issue as ‘outrageous’ after discovering Joshua had been marked as absent.

He wrote on social media: ‘How can that happen? When will it be sorted? How?’

He told MailOnline: ‘It’s unthinkable that this could happen with so many checks going on, he even had an invigilator in the room with him for most, if not all, exams.

‘We currently have very little detail from AQA. The school said that they have contacted the exam board, and filled in a form saying that it’s the wrong outcome, and that they have evidence that he was present. 

‘He is stressed by it, and hates to see the ‘4’ there on the results sheet. We have reassured him that it will get sorted, but we’re not really sure what will happen.

‘All his teachers were in disbelief, they’d never heard of anything like it before. 

‘It was just another stressor after lockdown home working and covid precautions when back at school. Nothing has been straightforward.’

After trying to contact AQA repeatedly, the exam board responded to Mike on Twitter. He said: ‘They unhelpfully signpost me to the school, who are already involved. 

‘We can’t draw a line under it until it’s all sorted.’

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While these families were desperately seeking answers from AQA, company staff had walked out in a dispute over pay.

Workers went on strike over both A-Level and GCSE results days, walking out between August 17 and 21, and August 24 to 28.

This left families just two days with uninterrupted service to try and sort out incorrect results until this week – despite most universities only being able to hold students’ places until today.

AQA union Unison warned the strikes could cause issues for schools, with customer services, remarking enquiries and investigations into missing results all affected by the strikes.

The union said ​staff have been left with no option after senior managers at the exam board refused to improve a pay offer of 3 percent and threatened staff with being fired and re-hired on inferior contracts.

​Wages ​at AQA increased last year by just 0.6 percent​. Unison ​North West regional manager Vicky Knight said: ‘​Last year staff were given a meagre wage rise. AQA employees are struggling to make ends meet and simply cannot afford to accept the miserly pay award on offer.

‘On top of this, AQA is threatening dismissal and re-engagement if staff don’t accept. Threatening the dreadful practice of fire and rehire is no way to make progress in a dispute. AQA managers must come back to the table and discuss a fair resolution.’

Staff members took their protest to AQA’s headquarters in Tavistock Square, central London last week and were accompanied by Unison General Secretary Christina McAnea.

AQA has been contacted for comment. 

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11163849/A-level-students-given-wrong-grades-face-losing-university-places-errors-not-fixed-TODAY.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 A-level students given wrong grades – and face losing university places if errors not fixed TODAY

Emma Colton

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