Results Day

A level results not great? Don’t worry, you can protest against the downgrading that’s shafted almost 40% of students. Little consolation I know, but still more reassuring than Jeremy Clarkson’s annual results day Tweet.

It was always going to be difficult to determine students’ grades once exams were cancelled in March. There was never going to be a completely fair way. I’ve been thinking about it for the last five days, rather than five months admittedly, but the situation was still bleak.

Predicted grades can be optimistic – 38% of students this year would have received As or A*s; 11% higher than the previous record. Mocks are not standardised, even within the same school, because some teachers provide more guidance than others. And we’ve seen the flaws in Ofqual’s algorithm, punishing students for factors that they can’t control, like their school’s previous record in their chosen subjects.

It’s a mechanical approach, which has real life consequences. People have worked very hard for this moment (our whole time at school), just for Ofqual to estimate what would have happened if exams went ahead. How can you know what grades I would have achieved? You can’t.  That’s the problem.

I understand the desire to control grade inflation but not all courses have been lenient, with the exception certain colleges at Oxford University. I don’t know how much easier it actually has been this year to get into university, despite the fact that we didn’t sit exams and the anticipated decrease in the number of foreign students. It’s especially disappointing for those students still struggling to get their desired place, after already going through exam and interview processes.

But the handling of the situation, with decisions like the “triple lock” made just hours before the results were published, has just made things worse. And on Saturday it was announced that Ofqual is reviewing its appeals policy.

I initially didn’t want to be too critical, given the circumstances, but decisions like these are just making things worse. They make calls for the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, to resign, justified. He’s simply added to the existing issues within the education the system.

The global pandemic has highlighted the importance of exams, which are as fair an assessment that we have, although they are only based on the student’s performance on a day. The potential advantages of attending private schools unsurprisingly, as they saw the highest percentage rise in As and A*s, although the effect on disadvantaged students wasn’t as significant as in Scotland. And the problem with predicted grades, given that in 2008, only 16% of grades awarded were accurately predicted.

But having said all this, we don’t live in a true meritocracy anyway. There are going to be those who have an advantage compared to those who have obstacles placed in front of them.

It’s just this time things were taken so far out of people’s control. Furthermore, the idea that if you work hard in school, you’ll do well in your exams and give yourself the best options for your future, has been ridiculed.

Nonetheless, I hope that those who were downgraded and are still looking for a place can try to stay positive. The A Level results are not the definition of success or failure.

It goes without saying that I say this from the lucky position of having a university place confirmed. And although I had to wait for my two choices to make a decision on my application (the demoralising process of phoning universities, just to be put on hold and listen to classical music for half an hour), I still can’t imagine what it’s like to still not know where you are going to end up.

Before receiving my results, I tried to look at it as something out of my control, which patently makes things more unjust. But the whole year has been full of surprises. It’s done a great deal to expose problems within our society. And we’ve had to constantly adapt.

So, I’d like to leave you with some thoughts from another annual A level Tweeter; Alhan Gençay. Whatever happens with your grades, “ur gonna be a boss I assure you”.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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