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Wales’ top A-level grades drop from last year but beat UK average

18 Aug 2022 6 minute read
Pupils getting their exam results. Picture by the Welsh Government.

40.9% of pupils in Wales got top A-level grades, compared with 36.4% across the UK, as the results were published this morning.

The top grades in Wales – A* and A – were however down from 48.3% last year as learners returned to formal A-level and AS exams and assessments for the first time since 2019.

Wales’ share of the highest A level grades was the best in Great Britain, with only Northern Ireland in the UK getting better results.

However, Wales’ overall pass rate at 98% was the lowest in the UK, with Northern Ireland again highest at 99.1%.

Across the UK, A-level grades received by UK students were also down on the past two years but remain higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Hundreds of thousands of pupils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland got results on Thursday, having sat exams for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak.

Grades had been expected to drop back from 2021 levels – when pupils were assessed by their teachers – as part of a transition year which saw marks aiming to reflect a midway point between last year and 2019.

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) said the overall pass rate – the proportion of entries graded A* to E – fell by 1.1 percentage points from 99.5% in 2021 to 98.4% this year.

But this is up by 0.8 points from 97.6% in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.


The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, congratulated learners across Wales as A-level, AS, Welsh Baccalaureate and vocational qualification learners received their results this morning.

The Minister visited Coleg Sir Gar in Llanelli this morning, where he met students collecting their results. He said:

“I want to wish a big congratulations to everyone receiving their results today. It’s a huge day for you, the culmination of years of hard work, and I hope you got the grades you’d hoped for.

“We know what a challenging couple of years it’s been for students and staff. For everyone involved in ensuring this year’s exams could take place, today is reward for all the hard work you have put in.

“A record number of young people from Wales will be going to university this year and have an exciting time ahead.

“For anyone who didn’t quite get the results you wanted, or you’re unsure of your next steps, my key message is – don’t be too disappointed and don’t be too hard on yourself. There are a wide range of options open to you, including university clearing, apprenticeships, even starting your own business. Careers Wales is a great place to start for advice and your school or college will be there to support you too.

“Our Young Person’s Guarantee provides everyone under the age of 25 with the opportunity to enrol in education or training, find work or become self-employed, so be assured you have lots of choices in pursuing the career you want.

“I hope that everyone receiving your results today takes time to congratulate yourself, enjoy the rest of the summer and look forward to the exciting opportunities you have ahead of you.”

‘Special arrangements’

Kath Thomas, interim chief executive of the JCQ, said the results “represent a huge milestone” in the country’s recovery from the pandemic.

Congratulating students, she said: “Not only is it the culmination of two years of hard work, but these students are the first to have taken formal summer exams in three years, so we should all celebrate this achievement.

“Exams are the fairest way to assess students, as they give everyone the chance to show what they know.

“Today’s results therefore represent a huge milestone in our recovery from the pandemic and are testament to the diligence and resilience of young people and school staff across the country.

“As intended, these results are higher than the last set of summer exams in 2019, but lower than last year’s teacher-assessed grades.

“This reflects the special arrangements that were put in place to support students, schools and colleges through another challenging year due to Covid.”


Plaid Cymru called for less emphasis on exams in future. Children and Young people spokesperson, Heledd Fychan MS said that they believed that there were better ways of measuring students’ abilities than exams.

“Congratulations to everyone who received their A Level results today,” she said. “It’s fair to say that all learners have faced all kinds of challenges due to Covid, and have done their best under difficult circumstances.

“Plaid Cymru continues to question whether sitting exams is the best way to measure young people’s abilities and attainments.

“We believe it is time to explore putting greater emphasis on continuous assessment rather than examinations.”

‘Worked hard’

Admissions service Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant this week said Government departments and regulators are “working to make sure that, through all of our social media messaging, that support is around” for students on Thursday.

The school leaders’ union NAHT also paid tribute to pupils for their “resilient and tenacious” approach to meeting the challenges they have faced.

Paul Whiteman, union general secretary, said: “They have experienced large amounts of disruption due to Covid throughout their courses and have worked hard with their school’s support to achieve today’s results.

“For many students receiving results today, these will have been the first formal national exams they have ever taken.”

Russell Hobby, chief executive of Teach First, said the “sad truth” is that those who do not achieve grades that reflect their true potential “will be disproportionately from poorer backgrounds”, describing the attainment gap in this country as one that remains “stark”.


Childline said its counselling sessions about exam results worries were higher every month since January compared to the same period in 2020/21, with the greatest number taking place in June.

Shaun Friel, the charity’s director, said: “Children have had to contend with a huge amount because of the pandemic and it’s no surprise that with exams returning to normal for the first time this year, we’re seeing a rise in anxiety levels.

“We hear from lots of children who are concerned about their results and it’s really important they know that there is someone they can talk to who will listen to their worries. This could be a teacher, careers adviser, parent, carer or Childline.”

Those in need can speak to a Childline counsellor by calling 0800 1111, or using the message boards.

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