The second year of grades being submitted by schools in the place of traditional exams has seen a record number of students achieve top grades.
Schools could use a range of evidence for grades, including "mini-exams", coursework and mock exams – with one in five schools having a sample of their grades checked by exam boards.
The high results have instigated debates over grade inflation. Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group of leading universities, warned that increases in the top grades meant some university courses "may not be able to accept students who narrowly missed their offer grades this time."
However, National Association of Head Teachers' leader Paul Whiteman rejected warnings of "grade inflation", saying: "The results in 2021 cannot be easily compared to any other year."
England's Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, praised students for their work in an "extraordinary and challenging year. We should all celebrate their resilience and ability to overcome adversity," he said.
Labour's shadow education secretary, Kate Green, said the government had not supported young people and "let them down at every turn".
Children’s charity NSPCC saw a rise in their delivery of counselling sessions to young people who spoke about concerns relating to exams and exam cancellations. Between April and June 2021 their service Childline delivered 1812 counselling sessions, which has more than doubled from the same period in 2020 where 861 counselling sessions were delivered.
Wendy Robinson, Service Head of Childline, said “Results day and the period running up to it can be a really challenging time. The impact of the pandemic has made this even more difficult – and young people have told our Childline counsellors they are understandably feeling anxious and stressed […] It is vital that they are supported and listened to.”
With GCSE results to follow, the NSPCC’s advice for young people struggling with their grades is to discuss any concerns with a teacher or any adult, consider alternatives such as apprenticeships or a gap year, and to focus on the areas you did well in.
You can find more information about Childline here.