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Taking the stress out of A-level results day

The pandemic and the lockdowns over the last 18 months saw widespread disruption to education, with students from lower socio-economic backgrounds being disproportionately impacted. In light of this, we decided to do what we could to ease the anxiety of the students planning to join us through our School and College Leaver programme.

Setting the scene

With A-level exams cancelled across the UK in 2020, and students’ results instead being initially determined by an algorithm, many ended up missing out on the grades they’d anticipated. This resulted in many students facing an uncertain future, with their post-school or college plans being thrown up into the air.

Our School and College Leaver programme is an important part of the work we’re doing to broaden access into our firm beyond the traditional graduate route. It’s an alternative path to attending university and offers the chance for individuals to train and take professional qualifications while earning. Therefore it helps to open up career opportunities to a more diverse range of people, including those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Improving social mobility is a priority for our firm, so we wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing for the students due to join us through this route, and to help minimise any further disruption to the start of their career journey.

How we helped

We recognise and welcome the important role we need to play in creating opportunities for the workforce of the future through employment, mentoring and upskilling. This has been an area of focus for us for a number of years, but is particularly important now as we seek to support the post pandemic recovery.

So, in August 2020, we took the decision to allow the small number of school leavers who had been offered places but missed our A-level grade entry requirements to join us as higher apprentices. We considered this carefully and based our decision on the fact that they passed all of our assessments and their teachers predicted grades that met our criteria. 

And when further disruption followed, with the cancellation of A-level exams across the UK in 2021, we took a similar approach. In light of the uncertainty students had already faced, and in line with the commitment we’d made to job security at the start of the pandemic to our existing employees, in June, we decided to guarantee entry to our School and College Leaver programme to everyone we’d already offered a place to after our rigorous selection process - regardless of their final A-level grades. This felt like the fairest thing to do in these unprecedented circumstances and we shared the good news with the students once they’d completed their end of year assessments.

Louise Farrar

“Clearly this was an emotive and sensitive issue and in this particularly challenging year for school leavers we thought it was important for us to do what we could to support them. It felt like the right thing to do and was aligned with our commitment to job security during an unsettling time.”

Laura Hinton, Chief People Officer

Making a difference

In autumn 2020, 124 people joined us through our School and College Leaver programme. Our decision meant that a number of those students had the security of knowing they were still able to join through this route despite initially missing the required A-level grade criteria under the Government’s algorithm approach.

This September around 100 people joined us through this programme. As a result of the approach we took, they were able to enjoy the summer without the anxiety of waiting for their final A-level grades, and worrying about the potential impact of them on the first important step of their career journey.

But don’t just take it from us. Here’s what one of our new joiners said when we shared the news with them: “I am delighted to hear about the decision to guarantee my place at PwC. It’s nice to see how understanding you are, as this has been a very difficult year for me and other A-level students, and it shows the care PwC has for its future apprentices.”

Contact us

Annual Report enquiries

Corporate Affairs, PwC United Kingdom

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