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Boris Johnson: we need a fairer system for this year’s A-level and GCSE students

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Like many thousands of school pupils doing A levels, GCSEs, BTECs and other qualifications, I’d expected to be getting my exam results this week. Instead, because of coronavirus, all of us who couldn’t take exams are having our results decided by a computer algorithm, which doesn’t look at our individual performance and marks us down for which school we went to.

Almost 40% of A-level assessments have been downgraded, potentially impacting the futures of thousands of young people. This is not right - and I’m calling on the Government to urgently sort out this injustice.

For a lot of pupils, the algorithm doesn’t even consider what our own teachers predicted we’d get. There isn’t a proper appeals process. Worst of all, pupils from poorer schools, with lower results historically, are due to get automatically marked down by the software. Poorer pupils get marked down because of where they live and the school they go to, with their individual efforts and performance disregarded and their teacher’s assessments ignored. How can this be right?

Nobody's saying that this year's arrangements for results are easy to sort out. The times we live in are difficult ones, but that’s no excuse for building a system that systematically discriminates against poorer pupils. Appeals using mock exams aren't the solution, not least because many people don't have reliable or recent mocks, and many would perform better at the end of the year than months ago.

I’m calling for Boris Johnson, and his Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, to step in and fix it urgently. At a minimum, the Government must ensure there is:

  • No “marking down” of individual pupils based purely on them having gone to a less good school
  • A free appeals system open to any pupil
  • More weight given to our own teachers’ assessments, as they are better placed than an algorithm to judge us as individuals 

I go to a comprehensive school in West London, and had the benefit of some of the best teachers I could have asked for. I've done well in my results, but me personally doing okay does not make the Government's proposed system fair. I am disgusted at the number of my friends, as well as thousands of students up and down the country, receiving grades that aren't indicative of the hard work and effort that's been put in for the last two years.

This system could have resulted in 18-year-old students receiving grades, perhaps on the basis of last year's pupils having a bad day, and those same students subsequently having no recourse beyond sitting new exams after it was already too late for their chance to go to university. The Government can choose to stop this injustice.

I have sat on the end of the phone in a previous year comforting a close friend of mine whose exam results were far from what they expected. I do not want more of my friends brought to tears solely because the Government decided that the numbers that they produced from a computer were infallible.



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