Drama, dilemma and confusion surrounding A-Level results

After much protest from distressed A-Level students, the government has finally decided to perform a dramatic U-turn on how grades will be awarded to students this year.

The decision was made on Monday 17th August, following groups of students from across the UK holding socially distanced, static pickets in London, Bristol, Coventry, Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester demanding that the results be reconsidered. The backlash is a direct result of the initial grades which were awarded on  Thursday 13th August.

These results were produced by an algorithm set up by Ofqual. The algorithm was based on schools’ historical exam performance and teachers’ A-Level grade predictions. This method was deemed unfair by the masses for favouring private schools and being unfair to students at schools with low historical exam performance.

A few students reached out to Unifresher to share their thoughts on the poorly managed situation.

Saif Ali, Essex

Saif Ali from Essex felt let down by the confusion caused by this whole mess. He believed that the grades received were not a true representation of the effort he’s exhibited in the classroom.

“I was really annoyed because for psychology, I gave plenty of evidence in class that I was capable of getting a better grade. Not only that but I got a B in the year 12 mock as well as in year 13 which clearly shows that I’m better than a C grade.”

Ali added that he was also annoyed with his business grade. He felt that he had shown keen interest for the subject, along with competent classwork and great mock exam results. Unfortunately, he believes that a lack of interest from certain teachers and schools as well as the flawed system approved by the government is what led to this mess.

Saif was considering to suffer through the dreaded appeals process, which would have meant he will have to put in extra work to receive a new grade. Hopefully, one that is closer to what he would have received if the exams were held in the usual manner, but with the government’s recent announcement that should not be necessary.

Orla Scanlan, Hitchin

Thankfully for Orla Scanlan from Hitchin, she need not worry about this as she was granted an unconditional offer based on her AS-Level results, but she too believes that everyone is in a state of confusion and not one official knows exactly what to do.

“It’s a good thing they changed the process to CAG’s (Centre Assessed Grades) but it seems that the schools still haven’t been properly briefed on the new process. By rapidly changing the system not only has the government messed it all up but also they have put a lot of stress on schools and universities while highlighting the incompetence of some of these institutions.”

Orla is still yet to receive an official grade for her A-Level results and every time she has contacted her school for more details, the only response she seems to get is that the grades will come ‘tomorrow’.

The new decision

On Monday 17th August, the government announced that they would follow Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in their grading process and that students in England will get the higher of the grade predicted by teachers and the one generated by the algorithm.

This should ensure that no one particular student is favoured or discriminated as a result of their locale or school’s status. Additionally, since teachers were highly optimistic about their students’ performance on average, this means that many students will now get higher grades than they were assigned and on the whole A-Level grades will be much better this year than ever before.

However, a lack of organisation has now left universities in a tight spot with many students who were rejected prior to Monday’s announcement now have to reconsider those students if they do meet the criteria initially set out by their establishments.

A lack of cohesion, organisation and communication between the government, schools, colleges and universities is evident and has resulted in masses of students feeling helpless and confused about their future during a very stressful time.

The global health pandemic has caused widespread chaos in various sectors including the economy, businesses and now the education sector with still no solid solution on the horizon.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies believes that these problems were entirely avoidable if the A-Level results were subjected to scrutiny beyond Ofqual. “The government should not have had to rely on shocked 18-year-olds on result day to realise there was a problem. The government should have released the results in advance and allowed an appeals process on grades before allowing universities to finalise places.”

In a final statement, they declared that allocating A-Level grades to students who did not sit exams was never going to be easy. But the government’s solution is a definite fail. This will have repercussions for universities and students, now and in the coming years.

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