Students across the South West this week received grades for exams they never had the chance to sit.

And several colleges are saying they are much lower than they should be.

Covid-19 has meant students preparing for A-levels and GCSEs this summer never got to take them and instead have been sent estimated grades based on mock exams and work done throughout the courses.

Each college has submitted grades which have then been put through a standardisation process by exam boards and Ofqual (the body which monitors exams).

The results are then sent out via post or email.

Many felt this way of deciding grades was unfair so the government sent out a last minute announcement this week to say anyone unhappy with their grade can choose a higher mark from a mock or take an actual written exam in autumn.

Colleges and sixth forms around the region haven’t even been able to celebrate or commiserate in person as the grades have been mailed out.

Luke Pollard, the MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said young people could be missing out after receiving lower grades than they might have achieved.

He added: “Over the past year, schools in Plymouth have made enormous progress in improving the standards of teaching and learning.

“Now far too many of our young people have seen their achievements downgraded and opportunities closed to them.

“Our young people have worked incredibly hard in difficult circumstances, as have all of the staff in our schools. It is outrage to see them punished for their hard work in these downgraded results. I hope no one will lose out on a place at university, further training or the career of their choice.

“With ministers presiding over a mess for A-levels results those who are awaiting GCSE results next week face an even more stressful time.”

Students across Bath and North East Somerset were praised for their resilience as they receive their A-Level results.

Councillor Kevin Guy, cabinet member for Children’s Services, said: “This has been an incredibly challenging year for A-level students, a year like no other.

“Not only have they been denied the opportunity to sit their summer exams they’ve also missed out on major educational milestones as a result of the pandemic. Parents, carers, students and schools deserve enormous credit for the way they have coped with the situation.

“I would like to congratulate all students on their achievements and I know many will be going on to the next steps of their future with optimism

“For those whose results aren’t what you expected please don’t panic or worry, there are lots of options available to you.

“Take advantage of the wealth of advice and support available – your school or college will be able to signpost you to the most appropriate service for your needs.”

Richard Huish College, in Taunton, said it had congratulated all its students virtually after a ‘year like no other’.

It says a survey conducted by the Sixth Form Colleges Association this week, shows something has gone wrong and many results are not reflecting the centre’s submitted grades or the trends from previous years.

Bill Watkin, chief executive the association said: “There is a huge discrepancy between the teacher-led CAGs and the exam board algorithm-led calculated grades, showing less than four per cent of the members which responded felt their CAGs were in line with their calculated grades.

“Of the 96 per cent which reported lower than expected grades, more than half indicated they were ‘much lower’. This is not a sector lacking in experience or expertise. This is a clear indication the statisticians have got it wrong.”

Richard Huish says despite the decision to downgrade some results, many students have still achieved success with one student getting five A*s.

Chief executive of Richard Huish Education Group, John Abbott said: “Huge congratulations to all of our students; their individual and collective responses to the challenges in the latter part of their education with us has been immensely impressive.

“It is deeply upsetting however that it would appear there are more students in colleges than ever before, who have been let down by the processes put in place by Ofqual and the exam boards for the awarding of grades without summer examinations.

“The evidence would suggest a significant number of our students would have achieved a better grade had they been allowed to sit a summer exam as normal – this cannot be right given what our young people have already been through.

“We are working with students, parents, other Sixth Form Colleges and the Sixth Form College Association to ensure that changes are made quickly and at a national level in order to address this fundamental unfairness.”

Principal of the college, Emma Fielding, said: “This year group receiving their results  have been fantastic and it has been such a privilege and pleasure to have them with us at Huish.

‘They have shown tremendous resilience over recent months, we are hugely proud of their achievements and will continue to support them in every way we can.”

Plymouth College’s pass rate was 99 per cent with 42 per cent of students getting A*-A.

College head, Jo Hayward said she was incredibly proud: “I have been struck by the positivity and resilience shown this year.

“The students have worked incredibly hard throughout their time at Plymouth College and although the summer term wasn’t what any of us could have imagined, I’m delighted to see them move on to exciting new chapters.”

An Exam Results Helpline has been set up – on 0800 100 900 – to provide information on appeals, complaints, or next steps.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.