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Students set to collect A-level results as courses available through clearing drop after ‘admin blip’ | UK News

Hundreds of thousands of students will get their A-level results today across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, in the first exams held since before the COVID pandemic.

Grades are expected to go down overall compared with last year, but should be higher than in 2019.

The summer exams were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic and students were awarded grades decided by teachers.

This year’s race for university places is expected to be one of the most competitive yet, with almost 40% of students thought likely to make use of the clearing system to find a place on a course.

Admissions service Ucas acknowledged that universities have been more cautious in their offer-making.

It added that while it expects record or near-record numbers of students to get onto their first-choice courses, the process will not be “pain-free” for all, with some students left disappointed.

While some schools and colleges ask students to collect their results in person, others will publish the results online.

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

The Association of Colleges Chief Executive David Hughes said the class of 2022 faced “unprecedented disruption to their education”, while Education Secretary James Cleverly said every student collecting their results should be proud.

Courses for clearing drop after ‘admin blip’

Students who miss out on their first choices for university have been urged not to panic and instead turn to teachers for advice and support.

However, the number of courses for students in clearing dropped ahead of results day, with one university blaming an “administrative blip”, for showing more than 500 as available when they shouldn’t have been.

Students can use clearing to see what courses or universities might be available to them if they need an alternative plan.

As of Wednesday morning, a PA news agency snapshot of the UK’s largest higher education providers showed there were 22,685 courses with vacancies for students living in England, down from 23,280 on Friday.

Read more:
A-levels and GCSE’s – here’s what’s changing with exams
Topics for A-level and GCSE exams published ahead of time

The University of Liverpool had shown 529 courses as available in clearing on the Ucas website last week but it is understood this should not have been the case and was an “administrative blip”.

A spokeswoman for the university said clearing at its university will be for “a small number of high-quality candidates in a range of subjects”.

They added: “The Ucas clearing pages were live for a period of time for pre-qualified applicants, as is the case each year. We removed the pages while we determine which courses are available in advance of results day tomorrow, when we will advertise any vacancies.”

The change saw options at the Russell Group universities – of which Liverpool University is a member – dwindle compared to last week, with 1,785 courses at 15 of the 24 elite institutions as of Wednesday morning, compared with 2,358 courses at 17 of them on Friday.

Last year it was announced that A-level students sitting exams this summer would find out what topics they would be tested on to help them prepare.

Households already owe £1.3bn to energy suppliers – even before winter bill hikes set in | UK News

Millions of UK homes are already in debt over their energy bills – with £1.3 billion owed, even before bills are set to soar by more than 80%.

The overall debt bill is already three times higher than it was a year ago, according to analysts at Uswitch, and it seems likely it will grow further over the winter.

Six million homes across the UK owe an average of £206 to their energy provider, according to a survey from the company. In April, the same average debt was £188.

Normally at this time of year, bill payers have accrued a ‘float’ over the warmer months, to help even out the increased bills during the winter.

Regulator Ofgem is expected to raise the price cap on energy bills to £3,582 per year for the average household in Great Britain from the beginning of October, according to a new forecast.

Analysts at Cornwall Insight have predicted further rises, to £4,266 in January and then £4,427 from the start of April.

“Energy debt has hit an all-time high with the worst possible timing, turning this winter’s energy price hike into a deeply precarious situation for many households,” said Justina Miltienyte, head of policy at Uswitch.

“This is an alarming situation, as summer is traditionally a time when households are using less power for heating, which helps bill payers to build up energy credit ahead of the winter.”

Energy bills have become the major focus of the Tory leadership campaign.

Candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss take part in the BBC Conservative party leadership debate at Victoria Hall in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Britain, July 25, 2022. Jacob King/Pool via REUTERS
Image:
Sunak and Truss have been told to cooperate over dealing with the energy bill crisis

On Tuesday, Money Saving Expert’s Martin Lewis called on Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to bury their differences to tackle the problem together, warning the country was facing a “national cataclysm”.

He said the “zombie government needs to wake up sooner than 5 September”, when the new Tory leader and prime minister will be announced, as the new bill predictions are “unaffordable for millions”.

Tony Danker, head of the CBI, also called for both to get in a room together to sort the issue out.

Uswitch’s survey showed eight million households have no credit balances, meaning they have no cushion against the winter misery.

Nearly one in five people (18%) said they are worried about their supplier forcing them to take a prepayment meter if they fall behind on bills, although 38% said they did not know their supplier could do this.

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Read more:
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The UK’s cost of living crisis
Can I be evicted and will it affect my credit score? What happens if you can’t pay your energy bills

“If you are behind on your bill payments, or your energy account is going into debt, speak to your provider as soon as possible,” Ms Miltienyte said.

“They should be able to help you find a solution, such as working out a more affordable payment plan. You may also find you are eligible for additional support, such as hardship funds and other energy help schemes.

“The government also needs to take energy debt seriously ahead of the winter – and a greater support package for vulnerable households needs to be agreed as a priority.”

Archie Battersbee set to have treatment withdrawn on Monday after life support battle | UK News

Archie Battersbee, who is on life support, is set to have treatment withdrawn at 2pm on Monday unless the government complies with an injunction from the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Barts Health NHS Trust, which is treating the 12-year-old, said in a letter to his parents that “no supplemental oxygen will be given” after the endotracheal tube of the mechanical ventilator is removed.

Archie has relied on the machine to breathe since being admitted to hospital on 7 April after being found unconscious at home by his mother.

“The time it takes for the heart to stop beating is often a matter of minutes, but in some cases, this can take longer,” the letter continued.

“A doctor will assess Archie regularly to confirm that the heart has stopped beating but with consideration of the family’s need not to have too much intrusion at such a difficult time.”

Archie’s parents Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee will be told on Monday morning how the withdrawal process is to be performed, with the aim to “preserve Archie’s dignity”, the letter read.

It went on: “You or any of the family may wish to lie on Archie’s bed with him or have him in your arms, if that should be practically possible.”

More on Archie Battersbee

A High Court judge had ruled that ending treatment is in Archie’s best interests, after reviewing evidence from clinicians and said the boy’s prognosis was “bleak”.

The family says doctors should give Archie a chance to recover and have made an application to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, citing Articles 10 and 12 of the Convention (UNCRPD) which call on nations to ensure the right to life and equal rights for disabled people.

In a letter to Ms Dance and her barrister Mr Bruno Quintavalle, the committee writes it has “requested the state party [the UK] to refrain from withdrawing life-preserving medical treatment, including medical ventilation and artificial nutrition and hydration from the alleged victim while the case is under consideration by the committee”.

Read more:
Archie Battersbee’s mother appeals for help from health secretary
Supreme Court refuses to intervene in life-support battle for brain-damaged boy

Archie's parents Paul Battersbee and Hollie Dance
Image:
Archie’s parents Paul Battersbee and Hollie Dance

On Saturday the government told Sky News it has received correspondence from the UN which it is carefully considering.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We recognise this is an exceptionally difficult time for Archie Battersbee’s family and our thoughts are with them.

“We have received the letter and will respond in due course.”

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Archie’s mother makes plea

Ms Dance told Sky News she is waiting anxiously for the British government to comply with the UN request.

Barts Health NHS Trust said delaying the start of palliative care would “not be appropriate without an order of the court.”

The family said the assertions were misleading, adding: “We as a family are very disappointed that the Trust’s management has chosen to hide behind euphemisms and to mislead the public.

“It is hard to see any reason for that behaviour except knowing that what they are doing is cruel and wrong.”

Dover: UK-French taskforce set up to tackle travel chaos after huge queues build up at port | Politics News

A UK-French taskforce has been set up to tackle travel chaos in Kent after holidaymakers spent hours in gridlocked traffic trying to cross the Channel last weekend.

The Passenger Working Group has been established to minimise queue times and avoid further disruption for people travelling to either side of the border.

The group will meet weekly throughout the summer to avoid a repeat of scenes last Saturday, when families reported being stuck at the Port of Dover for up to 11 hours due to heavy congestion.

It follows a row over who is to blame for the huge tailbacks building up at both Dover and the Eurotunnel entrance at Folkestone, which has been dubbed the “hotspot of holiday hell”.

The UK has said there are not enough French border officers on duty to process British travellers, while the French say Brexit means passport checks take longer.

Authorities from both countries met this week to discuss the preparations being put in place to ease further disruption, which includes extra traffic enforcement to keep roads passable around Dover and Folkestone.

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Traffic leading to Port of Dover

The taskforce is part of a package of measures to ease travel disruption after the start of the summer holidays was marred by rail strikes, flight cancellations and border delays.

The AA has issued an “amber” traffic warning for this weekend – the first time it has issued the alert ahead of time.

Roads are expected to be “extremely busy” across Britain due to a combination of factors including train strikes, the start of the English Football League season, the Commonwealth Games and summer holiday getaways.

To ensure people can still easily get to the Commonwealth Games, the government said contingency measures have been put in place, including extra capacity on rail lines that are running and laying on coaches for spectators.

Ministers said flight cancellations have also recently fallen back to their 2019 levels after slot rules were relaxed to help airlines make sensible decisions about their schedule.

Read More:
People should go on holiday to Portugal to avoid queues at Dover, says minister
Liz Truss blames France for “appalling” queues

The government has faced criticism for not doing enough to get a grip on the chaos, with authorities in Kent calling for more money to handle the disruption.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and lead minister for resilience Kit Malthouse said: “I am working with ministers and officials right across government, as well as our partners and industry, to assess and mitigate any disruption, including any knock on effects from the rail strikes.

“We have already taken action, and continue to work with the Port of Dover, Eurotunnel, and the French government, National Highways, local police and the Kent Resilience Forum on minimising traffic disruption, and also with our airport operators to avoid last minute cancellations, and we will continue to take all the necessary steps to help people travel easily.”