From U grades to a U turn. The government went back on their decision to determine A Level grades based on Ofqual’s algorithm on August 21st, instead opting for teacher assessed grades. It seems as if the student protests worked in overturning the government’s initial decision yet Gavin Williamson remains the Secretary for Education, despite calls for his head. Sally Collier, the chief regulator of Ofqual, has been used as the scapegoat instead, recently resigning from her position, along with the chief civil servant at the Department for Education, Jonathan Slater. Nonetheless, many students still have not gained the outcome that they would have wanted.
I spoke to Benaya and Elizabeth, two of my former schoolmates, to understand how they were dealing with the situation. I wanted to find out if everything really has been “sorted out” as the prime minister, Boris Johnson claimed, after the U turn, which reversed the “mutant algorithm”.
How did you feel when the initial grades were published?
Benaya: When I sat down at school to receive my grades at socially distanced tables, I didn’t know what to expect. Prior to opening my A level results, I had been preparing for the worst. It was the best way to cope with any disappointment that would come my way. However, deep down there was a sense of hope. The prospect of going to university and getting out of my comfort zone was an opportunity I was starting to relish. After opening my results, that sense of hope quickly ceased and soon turned to a brief feeling of despondency.
Elizabeth: I felt failed. I felt like everything I had worked for didn’t matter solely because of my postcode. I also felt helpless because usually when you get a bad grade you can work hard to change it.
Benaya: My original predictions sent off to universities were AAA and I had received conditional offers to study at both Nottingham and Bristol. Fast forward seven months and I’ve got the grades BCD staring back at me. I could only laugh at how I had been downgraded for exams I didn’t even sit but rather than dwell on the disappointment, I chose to look ahead to the future with a sense of optimism to keep me aligned with my goals.
What did you think of the government and particularly Gavin Williamson’s handling of the whole situation?
Elizabeth: The government handled it poorly. Fair enough they made a U turn but the fact that this could happen in the first place shows the incompetence of the Tory government. I don’t feel comfortable living under a government that does not have faith in my ability and so Gavin should resign.
Benaya: I felt relief when the decision was taken to award whichever grade was higher out of the centre assed grade and the grade calculated by the computer algorithm. My initial grades were revoked and I received final A level grades of ABC. Still well short of my expectations, predictions and the grades required of me. Nevertheless, despite having a degree in social sciences, Gavin Williamson lacked the common sense and initiative needed to ensure that A level grades were awarded fairly and justly in the first place.
Elizabeth, I’m aware that you went to the protests in Parliament Square and you were even featured on BBC News. What was the atmosphere like when you were there?
It was nice to see so many young people. Since a lot of us were not of voting age last election, it was great to be able to have a voice and be listened to.
What are your plans now for the future?
Elizabeth: I am lucky and my school had faith in my abilities, giving me CAGs of A*A*A*A, which allows me to study medicine at Cambridge. However, I acknowledge that people still feel the way I felt when I received my downgraded grades on results day, so I just hope that a fair appeals process is put in place and BTEC students receive justice.
Benaya: I managed to attain five A*s and five As at GCSE, achieve top grades in both the clarinet and piano and guest star in two episodes of Holby City just to name a few things. I know that it’s imperative that I continue to make even greater use of these skills in my gap year, before I re-evaluate my options in just under a year’s time. Additionally, if I decide in a year that I still want to go to university, my aim will be to attend a top one. Regardless of my current situation, I’ve got an impact to make and an empire to build.