A level student tells minister 'you've ruined my life' after missing vet school offer

15 August 2020, 10:54

The student told Nick Gibb "you have ruined my life"
The student told Nick Gibb "you have ruined my life". Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

An A-level student who missed out on a top veterinary school after being handed three D grades has accused the schools minister of "ruining my life".

Nina Bunting Mitcham, from Peterborough, who said she was predicted to achieve ABB and scored As and Bs in her mock exams, told Nick Gibb she was distraught after failing to meet her offer from the Royal Veterinary College.

It comes amid mounting pressure on the Government to follow Scotland by scrapping a controversial algorithm that led to exam boards lowering 39.1 per cent - 280,000 total - A-level grades from teachers’ estimates. 

Teachers were asked to submit grades based on prior attainment after all exams were cancelled due to coronavirus. But Ofqual, the exams regulator, moderated these to align with the schools’ average from previous years, leading to many top-performing pupils losing out. 

Andy Burnham accuses government of discrimination in A-level results

The backlash forced a climbdown from Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, on Friday night as he promised to cover the cost of appeal fees exam boards were charging schools, of up to £150, and established a task force to oversee the appeals process. 

Read more: Free exam appeal fees at A-level and GCSE for schools

Read more: Oxford college accepts all offer-holders regardless of A-levels

Students protested outside Downing Street this week
Students protested outside Downing Street this week. Picture: PA

Protesters gathered outside Downing Street on Friday chanting for Mr Williamson to be sacked, a call echoed by some opposition MPs amid a Tory revolt. 

Mr Gibb promised a "robust" and "swift" appeal system which should see challenged grades addressed by September 7 at the latest, telling Ms Mitcham: "It won't ruin your life, it will be sorted I can assure you."

Nina, who went to New College Stamford, said: "I have no idea how this has happened. It's got to be a mistake, I have never been a D-grade student.

"I feel my life has been completely ruined, I can't get into any universities with such grades or progress further in my life.You have ruined my life."

A-level fiasco that's destroyed daughter's university chances

Mr Gibb said it was "rare" for students to be downgraded three grades from their predicted grades.

He said: "I do feel for you. This should not have happened to you. We don't want you to have to go through this.

"We have introduced very robust appeals systems that the schools will trigger for students like Nina. Those appeals will happen very swiftly.

"The universities have said they will hold offers open until September 7 and we're working through that now to make sure those appeals happen very quickly."

Mr Gibb added pupils can also sit exams in the autumn and "many universities are holding places open to start in January".

Sir Keir Starmer condemns ’deep injustice' of downgraded A-Level results

Schools are still awaiting guidance from Ofqual about how mock exam grades will work in Mr Williamson’s “triple lock” appeals system, announced 36 hours before results day. 

But with the clearing scramble already begun, and only four weeks for offer-holders to meet their entry requirements, several universities have been more lenient. 

Oxford University’s Worcester College has confirmed the places of all its UK offer-holders this year, regardless of their A-level results, saying it was due to welcome its “most diverse cohort ever” this autumn.

Leicester University told applicants it would accept mock exam results if they are higher than final A-level results, irrespective of whether applicants appeal. Vice-chancellor Nishan Canagarajah also said special consideration was being given to poorer students, who were hit hardest by the new grading system. 

Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, has urged institutions to be more flexible with admissions this year.