SHEFFIELD sixth-form students made an early start as A-level results were published today (Thursday), heralding the most challenging race for university places in years.
Sixth-form schools across the city agreed for the first time to have staff on duty from 7am, with hundreds of teenagers queuing for the information they needed.
Students failing to get the grades they needed were then able to get on the phone to universities in a bid to secure a degree course place, with many of their hotlines also opening at the same time.
Caroline Siddall, deputy head at All Saints RC High, said everyone expected the clearing process this year to be especially hectic.
“Demand for places is bound to be high due to the change in tuition fees which will come in from 2012,” she said.
University fees are set to almost triple at many universities to £9,000 a year, the University of Sheffield among them.
“Looking at the results, most of our students appear to be in a very healthy position but we want to give every opportunity to those who may have just fallen short,” Mrs Siddall added.
Marie Smith, exams manager at Notre Dame RC High, said time was of the essence in the race for places.
“We had 200 Year 13s in today and they all had to be up with the lark. And we have had staff on hand to give any young people with problems the expert help they need.”
Mike Pollard, deputy head at Silverdale, said: “All the sixth-form schools decided to act together on this as they recognised the situation would be extremely tight.”
And Lesley Bowes, head at King Ecgbert added: “The early start was all about giving our students the chance to land those really precious places.
“We believe this will be the most competitive year ever and we want them to be ready.”
Sheffield Hallam University said applications to full-time degree courses this year had topped 52,000 – a ten per cent increase on 2010.
And at the University of Sheffield over 34,000 applications had been received, fewer than in 2010 but still showing an upward trend over the last three years.
Early results showed a mixed picture for city high schools.
At King Ecgbert the pass rate at the three top grades – A*, A and B – rose by five per cent to 52 per cent, while at Sheffield Springs Academy’s new sixth form the rate was up from 11 per cent to 29. King Edward VII also saw an increase, from 50 to 54.
But Tapton saw a fall from 63 to 56 per cent, Notre Dame was down from 57 to 50 and Sheffield College rates slipped from 32 per cent to 30. At All Saints the pass rate was 40 per cent.
Silverdale was on course to be the state school with the highest pass rate, 60 per cent, roughly in line with last year.
Longley Park Sixth Form College meanwhile saw its pass rate improve from 33 per cent to 36 per cent.
At Tapton, headteacher David Bowes said 31 students had achieved straight As and A* grades, which he hailed as ‘remarkable’.
In the independent sector, Sheffield High School saw 61 per cent of students achieving A and A* grades.