The Government has been forced into a chastening U-turn after the release of A-Level results graded using an Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) algorithm on 13 August saw 40% of results downgraded.
Students in the UK were unable sit exams because of school closures during the coronavirus lockdown.
In England, more than a third (36%) of entries had a lower grade than teachers recommended while 3% were down two grades. This downgrading was also found to affect state schools more than the private sector.
Despite telling The Times on 15 August that there would be “no U-turn” on the grading system used, education secretary Gavin Williamson backtracked on 17 August – four days after the results were published – by revealing that teacher assessed grades would be issued instead of those calculated by Ofqual’s algorithm.
While Williamson said he is "incredibly sorry for the distress" caused to pupils after backtracking, the university applications process has now been plunged into chaos with many having already reached new intake capacity and applicants who were awarded higher grades by the algorithm being allowed to keep them.
For Brewhouse & Kitchen’s chief executive Kris Gumbrell, the situation makes it all the more important that the hospitality provides a viable alternative to higher education and a firm launchpad for school leavers looking to kick start careers through apprenticeships.
"Obviously what young people are going through right now is grossly unfair,” Gumbrell told The Morning Advertiser (MA). “There's no excuse for what's happening right now towards young people, it's an absolutely shocking shambles and your heart goes out to all these kids who are going through this.
"For me, it just highlights again the need for us to continue to develop high quality apprenticeships within our trade. We need more apprenticeships above level two and level three."
Degree standard apprenticeships
Gumbrell, whose 22-site strong brewpub operation has helped develop a level four, diploma degree equivalent, brewing apprenticeship – from which its first cohort will graduate in the next couple of weeks – adds that the industry now has to strive for degree-level apprenticeship standards.
“I think the time is now right for hospitality – that includes pubs, hotels, restaurants – to pull together and actually establish more availability of higher quality apprenticeships because the gold standard apprenticeships are getting taken up quicker than university places,” he explained.
“We've seen the devaluation of university over the years, in my opinion, where kids are spending an awful lot of money, getting into university, coming out and quite often end up working with us anyway, they're just saddled with huge amounts of debt. We need to focus on vocational training and development at a much higher level than we currently have.”
Redirecting from higher education
Gumbrell’s comments follow Suffolk-based brewer and pub operator Greene King’s appeal for A-Level recipients to apply for 150 new apprenticeships with the company and a glut of hospitality job applications due to widespread redundancies across all sectors amid economic recession.
“We're probably being seen as a little bit of a ship of doom right now but we're getting huge amounts of Government support because Government knows how important we are for the economy,” Gumbrell continued.
“If you want to double or treble the current levels of unemployment all you've got to do is effectively let hospitality rot on the vine for a couple of months and you've got three million people unemployed.
“We are a lot safer as an employer than some of the other sectors. We're a good employer, we give good development, we give good career opportunities, we probably need some higher level qualifications now and we need to still try to redirect people from university into high level apprenticeships in our sector.
“We've come out firing after being pretty badly challenged through the lockdown period, but we do need higher quality apprenticeships and our trade bodies to help deliver some of these things as well.”