“Young people of all backgrounds want to be supported to achieve their dreams – the Tories have shown yet again that they only care about themselves.”Luca Powell, GCSE student
Generation Z are amongst those hit hardest by the Conservative Government’s policies. The latest injustice they have faced is the downgrading of A Level results. This is another example of the class war being waged by this Government, as the downgrading disproportionately affected students from working class backgrounds and those who attend state schools.
On 18 March 2020 the UK Government announced that schools and colleges would immediately close in response to the Covid-19 crisis. This including the cancellation of Summer exams for Year 11 and Year 13 students. It left many GCSE and A Level students worried about the Government’s response; they now had the futures of over a million young people in their hands, and controlled the outcome of thousands of university and college applications.
Without having any time to say good-byes or sign a T-shirt, my peers and I were left with concerns about how our grades would be awarded and if they would even come close to reflecting the hours we had already invested in our educations. The Government had five months to compile a sufficient response to their rushed decision, but ultimately the Tory Government’s natural aptitude to underachieve shone through yet again.
For months, we received no updates or information regarding results. It left me and my fellow students upset and distressed, and weighed on the mental health of many young people. Being stripped of your school friends and support system of teachers is difficult, especially when you are facing an uncertain future during a pandemic. My friends recall many sleepless nights kept up by the stress placed on their shoulders by Boris Johnson’s government.
The handling of GCSEs and A Levels couldn’t have been worse. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson was adamant that Ofqual’s algorithm and his “triple lock” system, whereby students could receive the higher result out of their calculated grade, valid mock grade, or autumn exam grade, would ensure that A Level students would receive fair grades. He was wrong.
The A Level results released last week were moderated by an algorithm that reproduced this country’s already broken education system. Students from privileged backgrounds and independent schools received better grades, and 39.1 percent of students in deprived areas and from state schools were downgraded. One A Level teacher at my state school informed me that 7 out of her 11 students were downgraded by 1 or 2 grades.
There was uproar about the downgraded results. Williamson, a former state school student himself, commented that “The danger is that pupils will be overpromoted into jobs that are beyond their competence”. His incendiary remark reveals this Government’s hatred for people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Students took to the streets. Hundreds demonstrated in Hyde Park and Parliament Square, with many burning their A Level results in protest. They demanded to be awarded their Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs). In an example of the power of protest, this week the Government acquiesced and announced that all English A Level and GCSE students would all receive their CAGs.
This is yet another embarrassment for the Conservative leadership, but it is also another example of the Conservative Party’s political approach to policy-making, using U-turns regularly as a short term response to crises of their own making. This Government has no long term or coherent plan to fix the barriers to education faced by so many young people. Young people of all backgrounds want to be supported to achieve their dreams, the Tories have shown yet again that they only care about themselves, and do not have the interests of the many at heart.