This time two years ago, I remember feeling absolutely terrified. A Level results: the day that would determine whether or not I would be attending my dream university.
I remember my parents trying to keep me occupied by taking me out for food, going shopping, or going to the cinema – but nothing could distract me from the fear of failure. Attending Durham University was (and still is) my dream, and I remember the overwhelming excitement and happiness I felt posting my UCAS Track update on social media with the caption: “am beyond excited to be going to my dream university to study English Literature.” All of my hard work felt like it had finally paid off.
However, this A Level Results Day I have seen a handful of purple posts across my social media feeds, and instead I have felt a torrent of silence across social media. This is all thanks to the marking algorithm that has robbed many students of proceeding on to their dream universities, and even proceeding on to their second year of A Levels.
The Labour Party stated that nearly 40% of grades have been marked down. That’s thousands of young people whose hopes have been dashed. And students from disadvantaged backgrounds have been disproportionately affected by downgrades. The marking algorithm has robbed hard-working students just because of their postcode, which is disappointing to see in 2020.
The weak defence posted by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is that students from working-class backgrounds will not be marked up, out of fear that “pupils will be over-promoted into jobs that are beyond their competence.” Hello, classism! Why should working-class students be treated as second-class citizens, while the children of government ministers, judges and journalists – regardless of their competency – keep their high marks?
Now, I want to make one thing clear: I have written this article in support of social mobility. I have not written it to discredit marks obtained by students in private schools. I want to make the point that this results day has proved that the Conservative government does not value the working class. The government is equating ‘disadvantaged’ with ‘unintelligent’ and ‘unworthy’. If you have a problem with this message, then the problem lies more with you than with myself.
This has impacted many prospective university students’ chances from lower economic backgrounds, and what really hits home for me is: this could have been me. To think that my hard work would have been totally discredited due to previous years’ results in my sixth form, and that the stereotyping of state school students as ‘less capable’ would have resulted in my conditional offer being withdrawn is heart-breaking. This would have changed the course of my life completely and left me with one real message: that I would never be good enough, no matter how hard I worked.
These A Level students have been faced with the stress and pressure induced from a pandemic, matched with having no control of their exam results, creating a situation that is totally out of their control. And yet, at the beginning of lockdown the Prime Minister reassured us that students would not be punished for exams being cancelled due to the virus. Surprise surprise, this is another lie.
To those of you who know peers or have received A Level results that you are happy with, then congratulations are in order. It is hard to celebrate in the middle of a pandemic, let alone if you have friends who are unhappy with their marks. Do not be afraid to celebrate your achievements, but be mindful and show sensitivity to those who need a friend right now.
To those of you who know peers or if you have received results that you are unhappy with, make sure to follow the process and push for your remark. September is a long wait, and quite frankly, a lot of universities won’t wait this long: but the Clearing process is going to be the most complicated it has ever been, so I hope that the wait will eventually be worth it.
If you have any questions or are seeking advice on what to do next, get in touch with The 93% Club Durham, who can direct you to the right support services. The Social Mobility Foundation has posted phone lines on their social media pages where you can gain advice and guidance on your exam results. The upReach Team have linked on their Instagram page a COVID Cohort Grades Evaluation which will allow you to better understand if your grades were capped by the system, and how you can explain your true potential. Lastly, Change.org have so many petitions that are important to sign if you are a supporter of social mobility and disagree with the marking algorithm that has disadvantaged so many working-class students.
I’ll leave you with this statement written by English actor, comedian and director David Schneider: “Boris Johnson is right. The A Level results are “robust and dependable”. In the same way our track and trace system is “world-beating” and our COVID response a “massive success”.
Image: Clapton Girls via Flickr