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NewsA-level Results Day 2022: Biggest ever drop in top...

A-level Results Day 2022: Biggest ever drop in top grades

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The battle among thousands of teenagers for university places through Clearing began today as A-level grades they received were down on the past two years but remained higher than pre-pandemic levels – while the lead of girls over boys in the top grades narrowed.

Grades had been expected to drop back from 2021 levels – when students 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.

One in seven pupils get A*s and girls’ lead over boys narrows: Key data in this year’s A-level results

  • The proportion of candidates receiving top grades has fallen from last year, but is higher than before the Covid-19 pandemic. A total of 36.4% of entries were awarded either an A or A*, down from 44.8% in 2021 but up from 25.4% in 2019.
  • Around one in seven (14.6%) of entries received an A*. This is down from nearly one in five in 2021 (19.1%), but higher than the figure in 2019, which was 7.7%.
  • The overall pass rate (grades A* to E) was 98.4%. This is down from 99.5% in 2021 but up from 97.6% in 2019.
  • Some 82.6% received a C or above, down from 88.5% in 2021 but above the pre-pandemic figure of 75.9% in 2019.
  • The lead enjoyed by girls over boys in the top grades has narrowed. The proportion of girls who got A or higher this year was 37.4%, 2.2 percentage points higher than boys (35.2%). Last year, girls led boys by 4.8 percentage points (46.9% girls, 42.1% boys).
  • Boys have also narrowed the gap in the highest grade, A*. The proportion of girls who got A* was 14.8%, 0.4 percentage points higher than boys (14.4%). Last year the gap was 1.3 points (19.7% girls, 18.4% boys).
  • The most popular subject this year was maths. It had 95,635 entries, down 2.1% on 2021.
  • Psychology remains the second most popular subject. It had 78,741 entries, up 10.5% on 2021. Biology was once again the third most popular subject, with 71,979 entries, a rise of 2.7%.
  • English literature saw the biggest drop in candidates for a single subject with more than 1,000 entries, falling by 9.4% from 39,492 in 2021 to 35,791 this year.
  • Design and technology saw the biggest jump in candidates of any subject with more than 1,000 entries, rising by 14.3% from 9,979 to 11,404.
  • A total of 848,910 A-levels were awarded, up 2.9% on last year’s 824,718.

Almost 40 per cent of students across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are thought likely to make use of the Clearing system to get a place on a course, with admissions service Ucas saying more than 27,000 are available as well as apprenticeship options. 

While there were scenes of joy at many schools this morning, some parents reported ‘tears in the car park’ – with up to 60,000 pupils set to fall short of the grades needed for their chosen university course today.

It follows grade inflation during the pandemic when exams were cancelled and teachers decided on marks instead. Officials are now hoping to get grades back down to 2019 levels, when only a quarter got A and A*. 

Students collecting their results today have faced a difficult few years of education due to the pandemic, with months of learning from home and also competing against deferred places from last year’s teacher assessed-exams when grades were unusually high. 

Many teenagers will also have a very different higher education experience – with Ucas saying that, amid the soaring cost of living, more than two-thirds of prospective university students are already considering part-time work. It added that would-be students are also looking for universities closer to home. 

Deferred applications to Ucas as of January this year comprised 2.7 per cent of the total applications (75,120 out of 2,781,490). In January 2021, the figure was slightly higher at 2.9 per cent (79,860 out of 2,730,040). 

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

But this is up by 0.8 points from 97.6 per cent in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, which was the last time before this year that pupils had sat exams.

Entries receiving the top grades of A* and A are down 8.4 points from 44.8 per cent last year to 36.4 per cent – but up 11.0 points on 25.4 per cent in 2019. The 44.8 per cent figure last year was an all-time high. 

The figure for the highest grade, A*, is down year-on-year from 19.1 per cent to 14.6 per cent, but remains higher than in 2019 when it stood at 7.7 per cent.

And the proportion of entries graded A* to C dropped from 88.5 per cent in 2021 to 82.6 per cent this year, though it is up from 75.9 per cent in 2019.

There were a total of 848,910 A-level entries, up year-on-year by 2.9 per cent, compared with an increase of 2.4 per cent in the 18-year-old population.

Girls continued to outperform boys overall, with A* to E grades at 98.7 per cent for the former, compared with 98.1 per cent for the latter. However, the lead enjoyed by girls over boys in the top grades has narrowed. 

The proportion of girls who got A or higher this year was 37.4 per cent, 2.2 percentage points higher than boys (35.2 per cent). Last year, girls led boys by 4.8 points (46.9 per cent girls, 42.1 per cent boys). 

The number of A-level pupils in England who took three A-levels and achieved all A* grades is nearly three times what it was in 2019, rising to 8,570 compared with 2,785.

The most popular subject this year was maths, while psychology remained the second most popular. English literature saw the biggest fall in candidates for a single subject, falling out of the top ten for the first time.

Meanwhile Ucas figures showed the number of students accepted on to UK degree courses has fallen this year. A total of 425,830 people have had places confirmed – down 2 per cent on the same point last year.

In 2021, a record 435,430 people, from the UK and overseas, had places confirmed. This year’s figure is the second highest on record, and up 16,870 compared with 2019 when exams were last held. Ucas said 19 per cent more 18-year-olds in the UK got a place at either their first or insurance choice this year, compared with 2019.

The number of students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds to gain places on courses is 6,850 this year, up by 3,770 in 2019. The admissions service said this translates to a narrowing of the gap between the most and least advantaged, with the ratio at 2.36 in 2019, 2.29 this year, and 2.34 in 2021.

International students account for 12.3 per cent of the total full-time undergraduate applicants accepted through Ucas this year, down from a high of 14.7 per cent in 2019.

Pupils celebrate with their A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Pupils celebrate with their A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Milly Foyster with her family as she receives her A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Milly Foyster with her family as she receives her A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Millie Clark (left) and Ella Cragg (right) celebrate with their A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Millie Clark (left) and Ella Cragg (right) celebrate with their A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Genevieve Boateng reacts with teacher Sharna-Kay Prehay at Harris City Academy Crystal Palace in South London today

Abi Hill celebrates with her mother after reading her A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Abi Hill celebrates with her mother after reading her A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning 

Sophie Thomas reacts after opening her A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Sophie Thomas reacts after opening her A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Alice Shaw and Amelia Cropley react after reading their A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Alice Shaw and Amelia Cropley react after reading their A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Freya Evans becomes emotional as she opens her A-Level results at The Bewdley School in Worcestershire today

Freya Evans becomes emotional as she opens her A-Level results at The Bewdley School in Worcestershire today

The O’Malley twins celebrate their success at Solihull School today as they pick up their A-level results

The O’Malley twins celebrate their success at Solihull School today as they pick up their A-level results

A students reacts while reading her A-level results at Norwich School today as pupils across the country find out their grades

A students reacts while reading her A-level results at Norwich School today as pupils across the country find out their grades

Two young women hug each other after reading their A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Two young women hug each other after reading their A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

(left to right) Ben Surtees, Bryony Lucas, James McSaprron and Leonie Rowe at Peter Symonds College in Winchester today

(left to right) Ben Surtees, Bryony Lucas, James McSaprron and Leonie Rowe at Peter Symonds College in Winchester today

Oliver James shouts with delight as he receives his A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Oliver James shouts with delight as he receives his A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Alice Shaw (right) hugging a woman after reading her A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Alice Shaw (right) hugging a woman after reading her A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Jemima Miller (centre) hugs a friend after reading her A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Jemima Miller (centre) hugs a friend after reading her A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Holly Robinson hugs her friend after she receives her A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Holly Robinson hugs her friend after she receives her A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Anna Austin (centre right) reacts when reading her A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Anna Austin (centre right) reacts when reading her A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Si Tong Xie looks at her A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Si Tong Xie looks at her A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Amelie Bredican (left) and Mia Bartrum (right) react after reading their A-level results at Norwich School this morning

Amelie Bredican (left) and Mia Bartrum (right) react after reading their A-level results at Norwich School this morning

A group of students react while reading their A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

A group of students react while reading their A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Clearing teams at Aston University

Clearing teams at Salford University

Clearing teams at Aston University (left) and Salford University (right) prepare to take calls from prospective students today

Clearing teams at Sheffield Hallam University are pictured taking calls from prospective students about courses this morning

Clearing teams at Sheffield Hallam University are pictured taking calls from prospective students about courses this morning

Clearing teams at Hull University

Clearing teams at Nottingham Trent University

Clearing teams at Hull University (left) and Nottingham Trent University (right) take calls from students about courses today

Places for students from China, India and Nigeria are all up – increasing by 35 per cent, 27 per cent and 43 per cent respectively. A total of 20,360 students did not get a place this year, Ucas said, down from 24,260 in 2019.

For the first batch of students to receive T-level results on Thursday, 370 – 71 per cent of applicants – have gained a place in higher education, the admissions service said.

Ukrainian pupil, 18, at school in Cardiff gets Durham University place

A Ukrainian teenager at school in Wales has been accepted into Durham University after receiving his A-level results today – as his father fights on the frontline at home.

Zorian Tytych, 18, from Kyiv, studied for his A-levels at Cardiff Sixth Form College while his family remained in the war-torn country.

The teenager got four As in his A-levels in physics, maths, biology and chemistry today, and is now going to study biology at Durham University.

Zorian Tytych, 18, from Kyiv, studied for his A-levels at Cardiff Sixth Form College while his family remained in Ukraine

Zorian Tytych, 18, from Kyiv, studied for his A-levels at Cardiff Sixth Form College while his family remained in Ukraine

Alongside his studies, Mr Tytych has been doing voluntary translation work helping host families in Cardiff who have taken in Ukrainian refugees.

Before the war broke out, his parents were lawyers – but his father quickly joined the army and is still on the frontline on the Belarus border. His mother was forced to flee to Lviv in Western Ukraine for a month.

Mr Tytych said: ‘I live in the suburbs in west of Kyiv. Before the war started my mum and dad were lawyers. Dad was on the Ukrainian committee for Judicial Reform, taking things up to the European Union level.

‘He joined the military the day after the war started, signing up to the territorial defence and receiving basic training. He did this because he wanted to protect his home and support his country.

‘As the war has progressed, he has moved on; he has been assigned to the military and is now seeing active service on the front line. He is now on the Belarus border looking at routes, surveillance, communication and connecting the regiments and their communities.

‘My cousin is doing the same and is now based near Kherson where he is right in the thick of it and all the shelling. My uncle is currently in the recruitment process for joining the army.

‘I cannot think too deeply about my father as it would drive me mad with worry, but I am very proud of him. Also, I know he would feel it is a disgrace if he didn’t join the army.

‘But I cannot think about it too much as it just makes me really concerned. My mum was forced to evacuate to Western Ukraine where she went to Lviv and was hearing gunfire in the next street. She returned a month later when the Russians retreated from Kyiv.

‘As well as studying for my A-levels at Cardiff Sixth Form College, I have been volunteering, visiting the homes of British people in Cardiff who have taken in Ukrainian refugees. I am helping these families by translating documents for them, helping them with day-to-day tasks and being a friend to them. They need someone they can communicate with.’

Over the summer Mr Tytych joined the army’s training programme to become a translator.

He added: ‘Britain now has 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers receiving training from the British Army here in the UK and they need translators and helpers. Another of my friends, Mica at Cardiff, is also doing this with me and I am going to stay in the UK with my godmother who is Ukrainian but lives in London before university.’

Cardiff Sixth Form College principal Gareth Collier: ‘Zorian has been volunteering locally by helping Ukrainian families living in Cardiff feel at home, talking to them and providing translation which has really helped alleviate their concerns.

‘He did this during his very busy A-level revision period. We have received glowing reports from the host family who described him ‘as an example of an outstanding, selfless individual willing to help others where he can’.

‘He has been an active member of the school community and we are delighted that he is able to continue his education here in the UK with these tremendous results.’

T-level qualifications, which are broadly equivalent to three A-levels, offer students practical and knowledge-based learning at a school or college and on-the-job experience.

Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said there are more than 27,000 courses in clearing, as well as a range of apprenticeship opportunities, for people who need to consider other options.

She said: ‘Today we have seen more students progress compared to the last time students sat exams.

‘This year has seen a growth in the number of 18-year-olds in the population, which will continue for the remainder of the decade, and creates a more competitive environment for students in the years to come.

‘While many will be celebrating today, there will be some who are disappointed.

‘My advice is to take advantage of the wide range of choices on offer, which includes over 27,000 courses in clearing, along with a range of apprenticeship opportunities.’

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.’

Dr Jo Saxton, chief regulator of Ofqual, the exams regulator in England, said: ‘I felt strongly that it would not have been right to go straight back to pre-pandemic grading in one go but accept that we do need to continue to take steps back to normality.

‘These results overall, coming as they do broadly midway between 2021 and 2019, represent a staging post on that journey.’

Pupils in Scotland received the results of their Higher examinations last week, with a similar trend in that the pass rate was down on last year but above pre-pandemic levels from 2019.

Education Secretary James Cleverly insisted today that the ‘majority’ of students will get their first choice university place, and are not being crowded out by a deferred cohort.

Asked by BBC Breakfast if deferred applications would lead to more competition for university places, James Cleverly said: ‘We should remember that there has been an increase in the number of courses, and as you say the number of 18-year-olds has been increasing, but so has the number of university courses.

‘Predominantly of course, students are competing with the other people that took exams this year. The number of deferments as a percentage of the overall applications is very low, something around 6.5 per cent from memory.

‘So the vast majority of places will be for students who have sat exams this year.’

Mr Cleverly said there had been a ‘tighter set of results than last year’ with the return of exams, but added: ‘We have got to remember that the majority of students will probably be getting into their first choice institution, that is incredibly good news.’

The Education Secretary also said there are no plans to raise the cap on the number of medical student admissions, but stressed that the Government is increasing NHS recruitment.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme why the Government will not lift the cap, he said: ‘The NHS has always relied significantly on medical professionals from overseas, and I doubt that that will change any time in my lifetime.

‘We are recruiting more doctors and more nurses, we are training more homegrown medical talent. That is right. We are seeing those medical professional numbers go up, but, as I say, the nature of those incredibly highly technical vocational medical courses makes them different to other courses.’

He later said medical courses in other countries often have ‘huge’ fees for students, adding: ‘We have chosen to make a different decision. We don’t put the financial burden on the students themselves. 

‘The Government heavily subsidises courses because the courses themselves are important and that is the trade-off. The cap means we don’t impose the costs on the students themselves.’

A-level grade result percentages by region 

Here are the percentages of A-level entries awarded the top grades (A*/A) by nation and region, with the equivalent figures for both 2021 and the pre-pandemic year of 2019:

  • North-east England 30.8% (2021: 39.2%; 2019: 23.0%)
  • North-west England 34.4% (2021: 41.4%; 2019: 23.5%)
  • Yorkshire & the Humber 32.4% (2021: 41.1%; 2019: 23.2%)
  • West Midlands 32.3% (2021: 40.9%; 2019: 22.0%)
  • East Midlands 31.4% (2021: 41.3%; 2019: 21.0%)
  • Eastern England 36.1% (2021: 44.8%; 2019: 25.6%)
  • South-west England 36.0% (2021: 44.7%; 2019: 25.8%)
  • South-east England 39.5% (2021: 47.1%; 2019: 28.3%)
  • London 39.0% (2021: 47.9%; 2019: 26.9%)
  • England 35.9% (2021: 44.3%; 2019: 25.2%)
  • Wales 40.9% (2021: 48.3%; 2019: 26.5%)
  • Northern Ireland 44.0% (2021: 50.8%; 2019: 29.4%)
  • All 36.4% (2021: 44.8%; 2019: 25.4%

 

A-level pass rates by country and region 

Here is the A-level pass rate (entries awarded A*-E grades) by nation and region:

 

  • North-east England 98.6% (2021: 99.7%; 2019: 98.3%)
  • North-west England 98.7% (2021: 99.6%; 2019: 97.9%)
  • Yorkshire & the Humber 98.4% (2021: 99.6%; 2019: 97.8%)
  • West Midlands 98.2% (2021: 99.5%; 2019: 97.1%)
  • East Midlands 98.4% (2021: 99.5%; 2019: 97.4%)
  • Eastern England 98.4% (2021: 99.4%; 2019: 97.6%)
  • South-west England 98.5% (2021: 99.5%; 2019: 97.7%)
  • South-east England 98.6% (2021: 99.5%; 2019: 97.8%)
  • London 98.2% (2021: 99.3%; 2019: 96.8%)
  • England 98.4% (2021: 99.5%; 2019: 97.5%)
  • Wales 98.0% (2021: 99.1%; 2019: 97.6%)
  • Northern Ireland 99.1% (2021: 99.4%; 2019: 98.4%)
  • Alll 98.4% (2021: 99.5%; 2019: 97.6%)

 

Connor Bott opens his A-level results with his father at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Connor Bott opens his A-level results with his father at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Naz Capar (right) and her sister Sara (centre) react after receiving their results at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield today

Naz Capar (right) and her sister Sara (centre) react after receiving their results at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield today

Wendy Gomez and Precious Richardson, students at Harris City Academy Crystal Palace in South London, this morning

Wendy Gomez and Precious Richardson, students at Harris City Academy Crystal Palace in South London, this morning

Elanur Tankisi (centre) is congratulated as she receives her results today at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield, North London

Elanur Tankisi (centre) is congratulated as she receives her results today at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield, North London

Abi Hill (right) and Anna Austin celebrate with friends as they receive their A-level results at Norwich School today

Abi Hill (right) and Anna Austin celebrate with friends as they receive their A-level results at Norwich School today

Sophie Thomas reacts after opening her A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Sophie Thomas reacts after opening her A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Alex Dixon hugs a friend after receiving his A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Alex Dixon hugs a friend after receiving his A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Abi Hill celebrates with her mother after reading her A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Abi Hill celebrates with her mother after reading her A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

John Bose (left) and Umair Abdullah (right) check their A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

John Bose (left) and Umair Abdullah (right) check their A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Alice Shaw (left) and Amelia Cropley (right) celebrate with their A-level results at Norwich School this morning

Alice Shaw (left) and Amelia Cropley (right) celebrate with their A-level results at Norwich School this morning

Nagma Abdi (left) and Zuhoor Haibe (right) with their A-level results at Ark Putney Academy in South West London today

Nagma Abdi (left) and Zuhoor Haibe (right) with their A-level results at Ark Putney Academy in South West London today

Rand El-Shebli opening her A-level results at Ark Putney Academy in South West London this morning

Rand El-Shebli opening her A-level results at Ark Putney Academy in South West London this morning

Students at The City of London Academy in Southwark receive their A-Level results this morning

Students at The City of London Academy in Southwark receive their A-Level results this morning

Yasmin Adan poses for a photo after receiving her A-level results today at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield, North London

Yasmin Adan poses for a photo after receiving her A-level results today at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield, North London

Millie Clark (left) and Ella Cragg (right) celebrate with their A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Millie Clark (left) and Ella Cragg (right) celebrate with their A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Sadia Ibrahim (left) with her results at Whalley Range High School today. She will study pharmacy at Manchester University

Sadia Ibrahim (left) with her results at Whalley Range High School today. She will study pharmacy at Manchester University

Students at The City of London Academy in Southwark receive their A-Level results this morning

Students at The City of London Academy in Southwark receive their A-Level results this morning

Ziying achieved 4 A* grades in her A-levels when picking up her results at Solihull School today

Ziying achieved 4 A* grades in her A-levels when picking up her results at Solihull School today

Genevieve Boateng reacts with teacher Sharna-Kay Prehay at Harris City Academy Crystal Palace in South London today

Genevieve Boateng reacts with teacher Sharna-Kay Prehay at Harris City Academy Crystal Palace in South London today

Pupils receive their A-level results this morning at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield, North London

Pupils receive their A-level results this morning at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield, North London

Freddie achieved three A* grades his A-levels when picking up his results at Solihull School today

Freddie achieved three A* grades his A-levels when picking up his results at Solihull School today

Naz Capar (right) and her sister Sara (centre) react after receiving their results at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield today

Naz Capar (right) and her sister Sara (centre) react after receiving their results at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield today 

Keshvaa Baskaran confirms a university place with Ucas after opening his results at Ffynone House School in Swansea today

Keshvaa Baskaran confirms a university place with Ucas after opening his results at Ffynone House School in Swansea today

Holly Robinson smiles after she receives her A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Holly Robinson smiles after she receives her A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

A student is comforted by Good Morning Britain presenter Pip Tomson at William Wilberforce Sixth Form College in Hull today

A student is comforted by Good Morning Britain presenter Pip Tomson at William Wilberforce Sixth Form College in Hull today

Alfie Astley, 18, a pupil at Ark Putney Academy in South West London, said he was ‘very happy’ and ‘relieved it’s all over’ after receiving A* in geography, A in art and A in biology in his A-levels.

Brighton head boy turns down Cambridge place to study in the US 

Brighton College head boy Shaun Pexton, who got five A*s

Brighton College head boy Shaun Pexton, who got five A*s

The head boy at Brighton College has turned down an offer of a place at Cambridge University to continue his education across the pond.

Shaun Pexton achieved five A* grades in chemistry, physics, maths, further maths and history – and he is one of 16 pupils at the Sussex college choosing to study in America rather than the United Kingdom.

Mr Pexton has accepted an offer to study at Yale University and will be joined by two other Brighton College pupils, Kieran Malandain and Matias Paz Linares.

Last year Mr Pexton swam the Channel to raise money for mental health charity YoungMinds.

He said: ‘I spent my younger years in Hong Kong and Singapore, and I’m now moving on to Yale University in the US – but my roots will always be here in Brighton, and I know that my years at Brighton College will remain some of the best of my life.’

This year 60 per cent of grades at Brighton College were A*s – and 79 pupils achieved at least three A*s.

The last time exams were held, Brighton College was the top co-educational school in England, and was named UK School of the Decade by The Sunday Times.

College headmaster Richard Cairns said: ‘It was always going to be a challenge for this year’s cohort because they had no previous GCSE exam experience, so it is wonderful that they have risen to the challenge, smashing the record in 2019 when exams were last sat in person.

‘Nearly all Brighton College pupils have secured places at top universities. Twenty-four received Oxbridge offers but it is noticeable that there has been a real shift in emphasis towards the United States, with 16 heading off to North America.’

He is now going to Loughborough University, his first choice, to study graphic design, where he will become the first in his family to study for a degree.

Mr Astley said after opening his results envelope: ‘With Covid it was quite strange, in and out of school constantly and with the struggles of online learning.

‘It never really felt real until the last few months when the A-levels started and then it was a mad rush to be prepared and sit the exams, as there was a big question over whether we could actually sit the exams.

‘It made me feel a lot more uncertain about it all. My GCSEs were completely cancelled and we got teacher-assessed grades. It feels very great to be the first in my family to go to university.

‘I know that some of my friends feel a bit disappointed or frustrated; they’ve received offers but not getting into their first choice. I’m very grateful that I wasn’t negatively impacted by anything that I had no control over, such as grade inflation.’

Another pupil at the same school, Somalian refugee Nagma Abdi, from Fulham, said she was ‘very happy’ with her A-level results of A in sociology, just four marks from an A*, as well as B in psychology and C in media studies. The 18-year-old has secured her first choice of university, the London School of Economics, where she will study social anthropology.

‘I feel very happy, I’ve worked very hard, and obviously with Covid it’s been quite challenging,’ she said.

‘It made everything more difficult, you were very unsure what was happening. We weren’t sure whether the exams would happen, then there were questions about grade boundaries and the questions because we’ve had changed curriculums.’

Ms Abdi arrived in the UK at the age of seven after her family fled Somalia’s civil war. ‘English became a big challenge – it took me about a year and a half to work out grammar – but in the end, everything went well for me,’ she said.

Rand El-Shebli, from Battersea in south London, felt her generation had not been treated fairly as she opened her A-level results.

The 17-year-old is now going on to study psychology at Queen Mary University of London, after achieving A in media studies, B psychology and B in sociology.

‘I was expecting a bit better, but overall I’m happy because for those to be the first exams since SATs, it’s a big achievement and everyone should be proud regardless of what they got,’ she said.

‘We’re the first year to never have sat GCSEs then go straight into A-levels. We did have some help but I feel like it’s not entirely fair but overall I think people did get what they deserved.’

The Ark Academy Putney school-leaver added: ‘At the end of the day, I feel like it’s pretty unfair for your whole secondary school and A-level life to be determined by just one grade and three papers that you sit. Your future depends on that, which isn’t the best.

Si Tong Xie smiles after she receives her A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Si Tong Xie smiles after she receives her A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Oliver James talks on the phone as he receives his A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Oliver James talks on the phone as he receives his A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning

Mert Savas (left) and Paris Eockeray (right) after receiving their results at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield this morning

Mert Savas (left) and Paris Eockeray (right) after receiving their results at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield this morning

Yasmin Adan (left) and Asmaa Ali (right) receive their A-level results at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield, North London, today

Yasmin Adan (left) and Asmaa Ali (right) receive their A-level results at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield, North London, today

Sarim Rafique at Ffynone House School in Swansea today

Sarim Rafique at Ffynone House School in Swansea today

Sarim Rafique with his mother and father today after he receives his A-level results at Ffynone House School in Swansea

Mert Savas (left) and Paris Eockeray (right) hug after receiving their A-level results at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield topday

Mert Savas (left) and Paris Eockeray (right) hug after receiving their A-level results at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield topday

Pupils receive their A-level results at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield, North London, this morning

Pupils receive their A-level results at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield, North London, this morning

Elanur Tankisi receives her A-level results at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield, North London, this morning

Elanur Tankisi receives her A-level results at Oasis Academy Hadley in Enfield, North London, this morning

Nagma Abdi (left) and Zuhoor Haibe with their A-level results at Ark Putney Academy in South West London today

Nagma Abdi (left) and Zuhoor Haibe with their A-level results at Ark Putney Academy in South West London today

Alice Shaw hugs a friend as they receive their A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Alice Shaw hugs a friend as they receive their A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

‘I did expect the grade boundaries to be lower but if anything they are not actually low, which again is not really fair. It has become normal for people to get A*, and I think they wanted that grade to be reserved for a particular type of student this year.’

Straight A*s for pupil, 18, who is a full-time carer for her grandmother

Jaynee Winslade-Gregory, 18, from Bridgend, South Wales

Jaynee Winslade-Gregory, 18, from Bridgend, South Wales

A teenager who is a full-time carer for her grandmother scored straight A*s in her A levels and will now study medicine.

Jaynee Winslade-Gregory, 18, from Bridgend, South Wales, was only two years old when her grandmother was diagnosed with dementia, and later suffered a stroke.

She helped with showering, dressing, eating and medication, after school and during overnight stays.

Miss Winslade-Gregory’s father works nights and her mother suffers from mental health issues, and the schoolgirl, who has no siblings, found hospitals to be ‘inspiring’ and she idolised medics. Nobody in her family had been to university before.

Jaynee got her head down at Cardiff Sixth Form College and achieved A*s in Chemistry, Biology, Maths and English Literature and will study at Imperial College London. She was delighted to land a place to read medicine at Imperial College London.

Miss Winslade-Gregory said: ‘I first went into hospital with my Nanna when she was diagnosed with vascular dementia, triggered by a mini stroke, when I was two years old. She was very disabled, blind and needed lots of support so hospital became almost like our second home.

‘I found the atmosphere very inspiring and idealised the doctors. Seeing people who had such a positive manner and were doing their absolute best to help people, many of whom were extremely ill, really focused me.

‘It was pivotal in helping me decide what I wanted to do with my life. As an only child I have never known anything else. We had no outside support so I felt my mission in life was to care for my nanna and to look after people generally.

‘When she passed away it was as if I had lost my purpose. Compounded by lockdowns during the pandemic, I felt very displaced. However, I have been really fortunate as my teachers at Cardiff Sixth Form College and my parents have been so supportive. I decided to put my head down, start working hard to achieve the best grades I could and am now the first person in my family to go to university and the first doctor.’

She found herself fascinated by the medical staff and started to talk to the doctors about how they made diagnoses from the symptoms exhibited. An active campaigner and fundraiser for dementia, Miss Winslade-Gregory has set up donation pages for the local Brace charity. She has also volunteered, shadowed medical practitioners, helped lead Cardiff Sixth Form College’s medical society and undertaken extra medial research.

She said: ‘As a country girl growing up in Wales going to university in London has been my dream. I was fortunate to win a full scholarship at Cardiff Sixth Form College which has helped me not just achieve top grades, but also reflect on where I wanted to go to medical school and think positively about how to get there. We had lots of professionals working in different part of the medical profession come to speak to us and I certainly couldn’t have done it without their support.’

Cardiff Sixth Form College principal Gareth Collier said: ‘Jaynee has worked really hard, attending drop in sessions with staff to help her catch up on her chemistry.

‘She has joined the debating society which has given her confidence with public speaking and improved her interview technique as well as making full use of the extensive resources that the college offers. Having spent so much time in hospital she has seen first-hand what being a doctor entails and understands the hard working environment in which medical staff operate. She has natural empathy and will make an excellent doctor.’

Walsall College students have thanked the Government for introducing the new T-level qualifications and have spoken of their ‘exciting’ career prospects.

Leah Hickman, 18, who secured a degree-level Chartered Surveyor Apprenticeship working on infrastructure on the HS2 route, said: ‘I’m very happy. I wasn’t expecting a distinction – so, yes, I’m very happy.

‘I’ve got to thank my tutors – they definitely kept me going. It was a very hard year, especially with Covid, but I’ve got to thank the Government for the T-level funding as well.

‘I’m only 18, and already have two years’ experience on my CV, which will really help me to stand out.’

Walsall College student Aqsah Ahmed, 18, who achieved a distinction in her design, surveying and planning T-level, told the PA news agency she was proud of her results after finding studying during the Covid-19 pandemic difficult.

‘When I came in I was quite nervous, but when I opened my results I was really happy because I didn’t think I was going to get that grade – so I’m quite proud of myself.

‘The first year, because Covid hit, it was kind of hard because we were at home doing it online and everything.

‘But when we came in and they taught us face to face it was quite easy to understand, and when we did practical work – especially the work placement we did with Balfour Beatty – it gave us a great perspective of the work environment and office, so that was really good.’

Walsall College principal Jatinder Sharma said his T-level students will be ‘absolutely flying’ after some earned jobs working on HS2.

He said: ‘I’m absolutely delighted, why wouldn’t I be? The stories of maturity in the workplace – talking to colleagues, dealing with multi-million pounds contracts – these students are gong to be absolutely flying. So yes, I’m a delighted principal today.’

Following her experience of homelessness, Andria Kamil, who is celebrating A-level results of A in sociology, B in psychology and B in history, said it is important for universities to admit disadvantaged students.

The 18-year-old, from Roehampton, South West London, had a ‘nerve-wracking’ morning after missing her first choice of university, but secured her insurance choice to study law at City, University of London.

‘It was nerve-wracking this morning because I opened the Ucas portal and I didn’t get the answers so I came in early to sort it out. I’m excited and happy because I knew I wanted to do law,’ she said at her school, Ark Putney Academy.

‘All these two years building up to it has led to this moment and it’s crazy because everything I’ve done is on this piece of paper. We’ve been through a lot as a year group and I’m just proud of all of us.

‘We’ve always been the first year group to experience something. I was nervous doing exams again, walking into what used to be our assembly hall, this time to sit A-levels, but we tried our best and I think it paid off.’

Ms Kamil found the cancellation of GCSE exams ‘a blessing in disguise’ as she was moved into temporary accommodation in east London, meaning a commute between 5am and 8pm each day to reach school.

She said universities should ‘definitely’ focus on disadvantaged students.

‘Everyone has their own struggles, disregarding their backgrounds and whatnot, but it just depends how you take it on and manage your problem. I just tried my hardest and now I get to go to uni, so I’m excited,’ she added.

In Norfolk, a teenager who is preparing to start a BBC apprenticeship said studying through the Covid-19 pandemic was a ‘nightmare’.

As he collected his A-level results at Norwich School, James Livesey, 18, said: ‘I feel very relieved. It’s a big weight off my shoulders.’

The pupil, of Norwich, achieved an A* in computer science and As in physics and maths. He said of studying during the pandemic: ‘It’s been a nightmare.

‘Honestly, 2020 was just such a different kind of learning environment and everything and it did throw a spanner in the works.’

Grades in 2020 and 2021 were based on teachers’ assessments, with this year marking a return to public exams.

‘It’s a bit of a weird difference considering I’d never really done exams before in such an official capacity, but I think I was fine with it in the end,’ said Mr Livesey. ‘As the results show, I’m really glad.’

Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, visits the King James I Academy in Bishop Auckland today

Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, visits the King James I Academy in Bishop Auckland today

Emily Rivett celebrates with her parents after opening her A-level results at Norwich School this morning

Emily Rivett celebrates with her parents after opening her A-level results at Norwich School this morning

Robert Robinson, Headmaster of Campbell College in Belfast, with (left) Patrick Kenny who was awarded 4 A*/A and (right) Tom Crowther who was awarded 3 A's in their A Level results today

Robert Robinson, Headmaster of Campbell College in Belfast, with (left) Patrick Kenny who was awarded 4 A*/A and (right) Tom Crowther who was awarded 3 A’s in their A Level results today

Nikita Howard, 18, (left) and Skye Paterson (right), 18, get their T-level results at Peter Symonds College in Winchester today

Nikita Howard, 18, (left) and Skye Paterson (right), 18, get their T-level results at Peter Symonds College in Winchester today

Students with their A-level results at Ark Putney Academy in South West London this morning

Students with their A-level results at Ark Putney Academy in South West London this morning

Robert Robinson, headmaster of Campbell College in Belfast, with pupils receiving their A Level results this morning

Robert Robinson, headmaster of Campbell College in Belfast, with pupils receiving their A Level results this morning

(left to right) Students Ben Surtees, Bryony Lucas, James McSaprron and Leonie Rowe check their results on their phones at Peter Symonds College in Winchester today

(left to right) Students Ben Surtees, Bryony Lucas, James McSaprron and Leonie Rowe check their results on their phones at Peter Symonds College in Winchester today

Rufaro Cheda, 17, (left), looks at her results with her mother Angela Mupfeka at Peter Symonds College in Winchester today

Rufaro Cheda, 17, (left), looks at her results with her mother Angela Mupfeka at Peter Symonds College in Winchester today

Harry Cooper (left) and his twin brother Robbie who were both awarded 3 A's in their A Level results in Belfast today

Harry Cooper (left) and his twin brother Robbie who were both awarded 3 A’s in their A Level results in Belfast today

Lila Hallam celebrate with friends after opening her A-level results at Norwich School this morning

Lila Hallam celebrate with friends after opening her A-level results at Norwich School this morning

He said his grades were enough for his first choice university, Southampton, but he then got an offer for a degree apprenticeship at the BBC doing software engineering on websites and other platforms.

English literate out of top ten most popular A-levels 

English literature has fallen out of the top 10 most popular subjects at A-level for the first time.

It saw the biggest drop in candidates for a single subject with more than 1,000 entries, falling by 9.4 per cent from 39,492 in 2021 to 35,791 this year.

The figures, as students received their exam results, came after a headteachers’ union warned that urgent action was needed to ‘stop the spiral of decline’ in the popularity of the subject. The increase in the popularity of geography managed to push English literature out of the top ten.

Derek Richardson, vice-president of Pearson UK, which owns exam board Edexcel, said the interests of students change over time.

Mr Richardson, who said as an English literature graduate he recognises ‘the importance of the subject’, added: ‘English literature has been in the top 10 for as long as we looked back and so this is the first time that we’ve seen it drop out of the top 10.’

He said it is ‘clear that students today are interested in following different subjects than subjects that I was taking when I was doing my A-levels’.

He added: ‘So things that students are interested in studying changes over time and that seems to be what’s happening at the moment.’

The top five subject rankings by popularity are unchanged this year, with maths, psychology, biology, chemistry and history remaining the top choices for students. The rest of the top 10 is made up of sociology, art and design, business studies, physics and geography.

Earlier this week, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the rise in interest in other subjects, but said he had ‘severe concern’ about English literature’s decline, blaming Government reforms to GCSE for ‘putting students off’ continuing it to A-level.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said the Government had reformed GCSE and A-level in English language and literature ‘to be more rigorous and better prepare pupils for further study and employment’.

‘I’m going to go for that because it’s such a sought-after opportunity so that’s my main choice,’ he said. ‘I’m really excited for it.’

Mia Bartram, 18, from near King’s Lynn, said she was ‘very happy’ to achieve three A* grades in 3D design, photography, and art, craft and design.

‘All the hard work’s paid off, so that’s really great,’ she said, adding that she plans to study sustainable product design at Falmouth University.

On studying over the last two years, she said: ‘It was difficult in periods like when we had lockdown and stuff, especially as all the subjects I take are in the workshop and are very hands-on-based, so that was difficult from home. But the school have combatted it really well. There’s always been ways round it.’

Millie Clark, 18, achieved two A* grades in history and music and an A in French and plans to study music at Cambridge University. ‘I’m really happy, I can’t quite believe it,’ the head of school said.

She said coronavirus restrictions had made things ‘difficult with music extracurricular stuff, not being able to play together as year groups’, adding: ‘It’s been difficult but it’s been worth it.’

She said sitting the exams, after two years of teacher-assessed grades, ‘felt like we were going in kind of knowing nothing’. She added: ‘We hadn’t even done GCSEs beforehand, so that was really scary.

‘But it was actually much easier than I thought it would be. The adrenalin kind of kicked in, and that was good.’

Flynn Robbins, 18, of Thorpe St Andrew, achieved A-grades in chemistry and maths and an A* in physics. He plans to study for a masters degree in aerospace engineering at Sheffield University.

‘My ultimate goal is to join an F1 team as an aerodynamicist working in that department designing the aerodynamics of an F1 car, that’s what I want to do,’ he said.

He said he is ‘very, very excited’, adding: ‘The past few days was not much sleep, just stressing over this.

‘I’ve just been really worried that I somehow messed up, even though I think I knew in my head that I got enough, but the doubts creep in.’

Vani Kumar, 18, of Costessey in Norwich, who achieved four A*s in maths, economics, Spanish and 2D design, said: ‘Throughout the two years it was tough as the teaching was slightly different, but we were lucky that every department had support.’

Among the universities running Clearing hotlines today was the University of Sheffield, which took more than 550 calls within the first 90 minutes of opening at 8am.

The most popular subjects they were receiving calls for were English, history, geography and maths. The university gad more than 100 people staffing the phones via a virtual and physical call centre.

Leyna McQuillin (left) with her mother Michelle McQuillin at Peter Symonds College in Winchester this morning

Leyna McQuillin (left) with her mother Michelle McQuillin at Peter Symonds College in Winchester this morning

Bridget Phillipson MP (left), Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, visits the King James I Academy in Bishop Auckland today

Bridget Phillipson MP (left), Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, visits the King James I Academy in Bishop Auckland today

Genevieve Boateng reacts at Harris City Academy Crystal Palace in South London today as she picks up her results

Genevieve Boateng reacts at Harris City Academy Crystal Palace in South London today as she picks up her results

Milly Foyster celebrates with her family as she receives her A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Milly Foyster celebrates with her family as she receives her A-level results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning

Wendy Gomez and Precious Richardson, students at Harris City Academy Crystal Palace in South London, this morning

Wendy Gomez and Precious Richardson, students at Harris City Academy Crystal Palace in South London, this morning

John Diedrick, 18, looks at his results alongside principal Sara Russell (right) at Peter Symonds College in Winchester today

John Diedrick, 18, looks at his results alongside principal Sara Russell (right) at Peter Symonds College in Winchester today

Patrick Kenny (left) who was awarded 4 A*/A and Tom Crowther who was awarded 3 A's in their A Level results at Campbell College in Belfast today

Patrick Kenny (left) who was awarded 4 A*/A and Tom Crowther who was awarded 3 A’s in their A Level results at Campbell College in Belfast today

Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, visits the King James I Academy in Bishop Auckland today

Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, visits the King James I Academy in Bishop Auckland today

Nagma Abdi with her A-level results at Ark Putney Academy in South West London this morning

Nagma Abdi with her A-level results at Ark Putney Academy in South West London this morning

Jakob Hamilton (left) and Darragh Hanlon receiving their A Level results at Campbell College in Belfast this morning

Jakob Hamilton (left) and Darragh Hanlon receiving their A Level results at Campbell College in Belfast this morning

Dan Barcroft, director of admissions at the University of Sheffield said: ‘Clearing is a competitive time this year, as has been the case for a number of years now, with students seeing it as an opportunity to reassess their options post-results, switch courses or trade up to another university which they had previously ruled out.

‘At Sheffield, we have some places available through clearing to high achieving students across a range of courses and we will be honouring all our offers to applicants who have met the terms of their offer, whilst doing everything we can to ensure that students from widening participation backgrounds can study on the right courses for them.’

This year’s grades aim to reflect a midway point between 2021 – when pupils were assessed by their teachers – and 2019.

Record numbers of students, including high numbers of disadvantaged students, are still expected to start university in September, the Department for Education said.

The results will be a testament to students’ resilience and hard work, as well as the efforts of their teachers, the Association of Colleges chief executive David Hughes said.

He added: ‘The class of 2022 has faced unprecedented disruption to their education and many have never taken public exams before due to the pandemic.

‘So, their achievements are a testament to their resilience and hard work throughout this period, and to their outstanding teachers and support staff who have helped them to achieve success.’

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.’

Chris Hale, chief executive of Universities UK, said: ‘Students applying this year have faced multiple years of disrupted education and they and their families should be exceptionally proud of their achievements.

‘University is a life-changing experience for many, and universities will continue to provide students with the support for success in their studies and the future.’

Meanwhile, staff at exam board AQA are taking part in strike action over the next few days and next week when GCSE results are due out.

Unison said the action is planned as part of a long-running dispute regarding pay and fire and rehire threats to staff, but AQA said it had ‘robust contingency plans in place to ensure that industrial action has no effect on results’. 

Students have also received their T-level results for the first time ever.

The qualifications, which are broadly equivalent to three A-levels, offer students practical and knowledge-based learning at a school or college and on-the-job experience.

Of the 1,029 pupils receiving their results on Thursday, 92.2 per cent passed, with 31.9 per cent achieving a Distinction and 2.7 per cent were awarded the top grade of a Distinction*.

The first courses started in September 2020 in construction, digital, and education and childcare.

Data from the results shows 94 per cent completed their industry placement, 99.5 per cent achieved an E grade or above in their core component, and 97.5 per cent passed their occupational specialism.

Jo Saxton, chief regulator at exams body Ofqual, said: ‘This year, students have achieved many well-established vocational qualifications.

‘We’re also seeing the first students celebrating the successful completion of T-levels in construction, digital, and education and childcare.

‘All these qualifications will help students progress into further and higher education, an apprenticeship or other employment. I wish them all well in their next steps.’

The Department for Education said 90.9 per cent of boys and 93.5 per cent of girls achieved a pass.

Girls also out-performed boys in achieving the top grades, with 3.6 per cent of girls getting a Distinction* compared to 1.8 per cent of boys.

The overall pass rate for digital production, design and development learners (89.7 per cent) was lower than for education and childcare (93.4 per cent), and design, surveying and planning (93.7 per cent).

Of the first batch of students receiving T-level results, 370 – 71 per cent of applicants – have gained a place in higher education, Ucas said.

Zac Aldridge, of the country’s largest T-levels provider NCFE, said: ‘This is a hugely important day that signifies years of hard work from across the sector and Government to strengthen the options available to young people and tackle the widening skills gap.

‘We’ve seen first-hand just how much students – and employers – can gain from T-levels, and we’re incredibly proud of this first cohort as they receive their results, particularly given the challenges posed by the pandemic.

‘Huge congratulations too, to the teachers, providers and businesses for their hard work in bringing these qualifications to life.’

Education Secretary James Cleverly said: ‘Today is a really exciting time for our pioneering T-level students, as the first ever group to take this qualification will pick up their results.

‘I have no doubt they will be the first of many and embark on successful careers.’

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