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Clearing 2020 | A Parent's Guide to Results Day

By Newcastle University

Results Day – the culmination of months of hard work, when your son or daughter receive their exam results and life changes with the opening of an envelope.

Key to surviving Results Day is understanding what happens and how the university admissions process works, particularly as this year it will be set against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Because this year’s exams have been cancelled, students will receive calculated grades. For A Level and Scottish Highers students, these will be based on teachers’ assessments, together with a ranking by ability of pupils in each subject to help moderate grades and make sure results are fair. For students taking vocational and technical qualifications, such as BTEC Nationals, awarding organisations and regulators will draw on a range of evidence from teachers, trainers and training centres, depending on the structure of the qualification.

This system of awarding grades isn’t new – it builds on existing practices – and there’s been a real emphasis from government and other education bodies that final grades will be fair and considered in exactly the same way as any qualifications from previous years.

Since the pandemic put the country into lockdown, at Newcastle we’ve been working very closely with the government, Ofqual and others, to make sure that – come Results Day – our admissions process is fair and transparent and goes as smoothly as possible for all students.


When will results be released this year?

Results for Scottish exams will be released on 4 August, followed by A Level results on 13 August.

In Scotland, if your son or daughter registered for MySQA – a direct link with the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) for viewing qualifications – they’ll be emailed their results. A Level students normally pick up their grades from school, but social distancing rules could mean schools and colleges introduce new procedures.

Results for vocational qualifications similar to A Levels should be released around the same time this year, with Ofqual asking all awarding bodies to make sure other results are awarded in a timely manner.

On Results Day, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) also updates Track, its portal for checking the progress of university applications.


What does Track show?

Track doesn’t show grades; it shows the changes to your son or daughter’s university offers.

Prior to Results Day they will have received responses to their university applications and selected both a firm and insurance choice.

Firm is their first choice; if this is a conditional offer, they will need to get the required grades. Insurance is in case they don’t meet the conditions of their firm choice. Again, if this is a conditional offer, they’ll need to meet those conditions.

If they accepted an unconditional offer as their firm choice, this place is guaranteed, and they won’t have an insurance choice.

On Results Day, Track updates the status of those offers to:

  • Unconditional – your son or daughter’s place on the course has been confirmed 
  • Unsuccessful – your son or daughter has not been accepted and are eligible to enter Clearing
  • Unconditional Changed Course (UCC) – your son or daughter doesn’t have the necessary grades, but the university has proposed a different course


The right result

If your son or daughter has selected an unconditional offer as their firm choice, they’ve got their university place, as it isn’t dependent on specific grades. If their offer is conditional and they’ve got the required grades, it’s time to celebrate, too – they’re off to university!


Better grades than expected?

If your son or daughter’s grades exceed their firm choice offer, they might be curious about courses with higher entry requirements and can register for Adjustment in Track.

This service is open from A Level Results Day until 31 August and allows your son or daughter – over a strict five-day period – to explore what courses are available. It’s worth getting advice from their school or college first, to make sure Adjustment is the route for them, and they’ll need to contact university admissions offices direct to talk about vacancies.

If they want to accept a place, the university will add themselves to their application and Track will be updated. If they try Adjustment but don't find anything, they’ll keep the place they gained on Results Day.

Getting better grades than expected is a fantastic position to be in, but it’s important you talk to your son or daughter and make sure they still choose the university and the degree that’s right for them.


When things don’t go to plan

If your son or daughter doesn’t get the grades they need it can be heart-breaking, so it’s vital they know you’re still proud of them, how hard they’ve tried and the work they’ve put in.

They also need to understand it’s not the end of the world, or the end of their dreams for the future. They’ll need your support and you need to encourage them to stay calm and take a step-by-step approach to what happens next.

First, they should talk to their firm and insurance choice universities; they may suggest a place on another course. If that isn’t an option, Clearing lists thousands of course vacancies from universities across the UK. Your son or daughter will need to identify a course they’re interested in, contact the university and confirm whether they’ll offer them a place.

Don’t panic during Clearing – although it may feel like places are being snapped up, it’s important your son or daughter takes their time and considers their options, so they make the best decision for them.

University hotlines are manned by trained advisers, so your son or daughter will be guided through the process. Once they’ve received a verbal offer, they’ll need to add the course in Track; this will be confirmed by the university and their place guaranteed.

It’s important to keep talking to your son or daughter about the many options available to them. Students can appeal against their results, but the finer details of that process are still being worked out this year. They can also resit their exams or reapply to university the following year.


The next chapter

The most important result of all is that your son or daughter finds the right path for them. So, whatever grades they achieve, plan to do something positive on Results Day. You’re witnessing the start of the next chapter in their lives and no matter what they go on to do, it will be amazing.

We hope you’ve found this blog useful. Do keep checking back with us, as we update our website with the latest information on Clearing and Adjustmentas this becomes available. And if you’d like further details about calculated grades, we’ve compiled a simple guide to how exam results will be awarded during COVID-19.

Although we use the terms son/daughter throughout this blog for simplicity, it is intended for anyone fulfilling a parenting role.


Tags: Parents, Apply