Last Thursday’s A-Levels was supposed to be a day of celebration in an otherwise dour year. Sure, there couldn’t be the debauched final-day pub crawl with your mates, but getting those results marked the closing of a lengthy chapter in our lives. But – well, you know what happened next. With the global pandemic halting exams, the Government’s controversial algorithm to assign grades for students resulted in 40% of the results handed out to be downgraded from teachers’ predictions.
Having had five months prior to results day to prepare, in true A-Level form, they seemingly rushed this concept the night before and ended up cocking it up spectacularly. Widespread anger at the results – and the blatant favouritism to private schools – sparked protests and forced an embarrassing U-Turn. The now-binned algorithm was based upon ranking students within their subject cohorts, before awarding higher grades to the highest ranking student. Private schools, with typically smaller classes, benefited from this process.
It was upsetting enough that, in March, my fellow students and I learned that we were not going to have the chance to sit the exams for subjects we’d worked on for over 18-months. Not being able to take my grades into my own hands brought me to instant tears, and I know I’m not the only student to feel such anxiety and disappointment. Beyond the results, we’d already had to say goodbye to beloved teachers we had known for the past seven years, and come to terms with the fact so many final experiences – including our first ever prom – were off the agenda. It’s little wonder that we’re already being dubbed the ‘lost generation’ of adolescents.
But this week’s announcement that grades would now be teacher-assessed, as previously hoped, confuses the matter. I am now faced with an incredibly difficult decision: do I stick with my clearing choice, or hope for a deferred place in Edinburgh? And what can I do in my enforced ‘gap year’ if I do defer? There is still a global pandemic, jobs are scarce and I definitely will not be backpacking through Europe. This U-turn has caused a similar emotional rollercoaster and toys with students’ mental wellbeing.
According to Ofqual’s standardisation process, sixth forms and colleges were 20 per cent more likely to be downgraded than independent schools – especially those in disadvantaged areas. This postcode punishment for my fellow students in Liverpool and across the country doesn’t just rub salt in our gaping wounds; it’s also pretty degrading. The system that is built to protect us has abandoned us – how can we expect them to help us moving forward if they disregard us with such disdain?
We, as students, deserved better than this and we should be compensated for the pain and disappointment we have experienced and are set to continue feeling. There are still very difficult decisions to be made – I am still uncertain what to do next. But I do know one thing: Gen-Z have been pushed, shoved and backed into a corner constantly. And, come the next General Election, we won’t forget this cock-up.