A-level students struggling to make sense of what is happening

by HENA HASHMI | Published on April 9, 2020

Nearly half (49%) of A-level students (in England) say that the uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic is negatively affecting their mental health and well being.

This is just one of the things we heard from students as part of a snap study we conducted between April 4th and April 7th, 2020. At Havas Education we have always had a strong connection with our student audience. In these times of uncertainty, we reached out to current Year 12 and 13 students to find out how they are feeling, how they are making sense of what is happening, and how this is impacting their university aspirations.

It comes as no surprise to learn that over half (52%) say they are feeling anxious. They are finding life under lockdown very difficult – from worrying about their loved ones to missing their friends. But chief amongst their concerns is not knowing what will happen with their education in the next few months (82%) and the impact it will have on their future in the long term (76%).

In terms of A-level grades, 69% of our students felt comfortable that their teachers would assess them fairly. But at the same time, nearly half (46%) also told us that they are finding it difficult to keep track of and understand the education-related developments taking place.

Our study was conducted just after Ofqual released further details on assessments; so it remains to be seen how well students actually understand this guidance and how this might change their attitude and expectations. We will be exploring this further as part of our ongoing study over the coming weeks. 

Despite all the developments, 91% of our Year 13 students are committed to going to university. It is the start date that some are wavering on. 67% said they were sure they wanted a September 2020 start, prior to the pandemic. But now only 59% feel certain of this.

Overall, our findings reaffirm just what a difficult and confusing time this is for students. Especially for female students or those from a BAME background, who indicate higher levels of uncertainty than their peers. 

For universities, it will be vital to stay in tune with and be sensitive towards how students are feeling. And to reflect this not only in what they communicate, but how.

We will be releasing full details of our study after the UK Easter break.