The tragedy of this year’s A Level results


At 4pm on Monday, the announcement was made that A- level students in England would receive the grades that their teachers had assigned to them, completely dismissing the modified results given to students the Thursday before. The announcement came after waves of petitions, protests and complaints swept the nation. The 39% of students whose results had been downgraded no doubt collectively sighed with relief, but for many it was too late.

The decisions made in the grading process were undoubtedly classist.

The majority of the backlash that the government faced in the last few days pointed out that the decisions made in the grading process were undoubtedly classist. Students were justifiably outraged when data revealed that the algorithm was biased towards state schools and certain, less privileged postcodes. Private schools such as Eton, Boris Johnson’s alma mater, performed significantly better than state schools with an increase in A and A*s of 4.7% while secondary comprehensives increased by 2% and sixth forms/ further education centres only increased by 0.3%.

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, pointed out that “thousands of students may have missed out on their grades because of a systemic bias” as “colleges with large cohorts and very stable and predictable results over time are seeing their lowest grade profile ever.” One college in the North East found that 26 out of 39 students had their results downgraded, many missing out on offers to prestigious universities.

One could say that it is a positive thing that the government listened to the people and showed (once again) that they could go back on themselves, if they are put under enough pressure. The issue with this is that they had time to make changes before results day. They saw the fiasco in Scotland and therefore they had time to make changes before the results were published and intentionally chose not to, even though Scotland used a very similar statistical model.

They simply cannot reverse the effects of this tragic results day.

Furthermore, the damage has already been done. They simply cannot reverse the effects of this tragic results day. The British Government effectively told young people up and down the country one thing: we do not believe in you. The unfair downgrading of results with some students going down a whole three grades was not merely a hit to the ego of young people, but was a major disruption to their futures.

Even though people may now have the grades they need for their university places, it has been a few days since results day and many universities will have used clearing to fill up their spaces so there are no guarantees that there will be any room for these students. Also, the stress of possibly having to take a ‘resit’ a month or so away and paying out a large sum for the privilege would have taken its toll. The government allowed these young people to stew in uncertainty, anger and distress for the best part of five days. Can they really be this inconsiderate of the plight of young people?

The horrendous classism, apathy and incompetence of the Conservative party has really been broadcast to the nation over the last few days at full volume. Also, BTec students are yet to see the same changes to their grades, yet another group of young people left behind.

The government have finally done the right thing and for many students their futures have been saved, but if the general public have to shout, tweet, protest and petition for the government to do the right thing, then what does that say about them?

Image: A Level results day 2012 via Creative Commons

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