Students left ‘forgotten’ by A Level and GCSE results outcomes

A 17-year-old from Brent with her opinion on the GCSE and A Level situation. Picture: PA/Danny Lawso

A 17-year-old from Brent with her opinion on the GCSE and A Level situation. Picture: PA/Danny Lawson - Credit: PA

The government’s approach to grading exams has come under intense scrutiny this year, with the initial algorithm scrapped in favour of teacher assessments after nearly 40 per cent of A Level marks were brought down. Shakira Abdi, a 17-year-old from Wembley, writes with her response to the situation.

2020 has been a bumpy year for school kids, with the global pandemic forcing schools to close down and resort to home schooling.

This proved very challenging for A Level students like myself, who were left to teach themselves the entire exam specification for this academic year.

But for my friends who were graded for either GCSE or A Levels, most felt they had been thrown into an abyss of grades that they felt wasn’t a representation of their true potential.

We have been locked up at home and left to our own devices, faced months of confusion and anxiety over the fluctuating measures around social distancing, and then we were faced with a grading algorithm that made us question whether the government and our society ever considered our feelings at all.

READ MORE: GCSE results 2020: The latest grades and reactions from schools in Brent and KilburnAlthough our teachers fought on our behalf and succeeded in scrapping these algorithmic results, has the new grading system really removed the uncertainty this already confusing year has left us in? Many of my fellow peers would argue no.

The distrust within the government and our education system can be seen from both Year 11 and Year 13 students, as my peers felt stuck with grades that failed to portray their potential.

Although many are satisfied with their grades it is obvious that isn’t the case for everyone. After speaking to a few GCSE pupils, I got the sense that despite being able to move onto further learning, their work ethic felt ignored.

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One specific pupil I knew had very limited relationships with his teachers and although his mock performances were on average quite strong, his GCSE grades mirrored his class performance.

For him it is his teachers, not his government, who have failed him.

I talked to a number of A Level students who said they felt failed by the government and pushed to take a gap year after being severely downgraded.

They felt they were suffering from a situation we never created, and despite the U-turn taken after the outrage the A Level predictions caused, this still proved to be a traumatic experience for many students. Especially for those coming from low-funding schools and less affluent areas.

We’re told from very early on that our poor backgrounds shouldn’t stop us from thriving. We are taught that our biggest obstacle in life will always be our attitude towards learning and nothing more.

This is why the A Level and GCSE results caused so much disappointment and outrage. Because it went against the promise of our education system, that resilience would give us the outcome we deserved. And that the system would be fair.

Mock exams are used within schools as preparation for real exams and as a guide for any room for improvement, which is why majority of pupils view it less seriously, whilst classrooms are viewed as learning environments for kids to gradually excel in their studies.

I believe using either of these for a student’s final grades confuses the aim of education and blurs the lines of equal opportunity.

The big question I would ask is, why were school kids not put first? The grading algorithm does not appear to have been thought out, allowing many to feel that education within England was an after-thought when Covid-19 hit.

The task of assigning grades in a pandemic where sitting exams is not an option proves to be difficult, but our students deserve to be more than a last-minute decision on a piece of paper.

Students from all backgrounds have been affected, but those without any safety nets to fall back on will struggle the most with this year’s results and disadvantaged students will now suffer from these decisions.

This crisis has put a strain on our youth and I now worry for my generation. The government’s U-turn seems to be a hit-and-miss for many, but for how long will we continue to be forgotten?