Furious A-level students call for grade changes after 'catastrophic government failure'

13 August 2020, 14:08

Thousands of pupils have been downgraded
Thousands of pupils have been downgraded. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Furious A-level students have told LBC that they are "so disappointed" by the government's "catastrophic failure" after they were downgraded under a new system brought in after exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic

Despite record-high results, exam boards downgraded nearly two in five (39.1%) pupils' grades in England, according to data from Ofqual - which amounts to around 280,000 entries being adjusted down after moderation.

Teachers were told to submit the grades they thought each student would have received if they had sat the papers, alongside a rank order of students, after exams were cancelled amid the pandemic.

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However, exam boards moderated these grades to ensure this year's results were not significantly higher than previously and the value of students' grades were not undermined.

This has left thousands of A-level students across England angry and disappointed, with some missing out on degree places and job opportunities as a result.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "Something has gone horribly wrong if 40% of young people have been downgraded.

"That is thousands of people who now may have missed opportunities for higher education and work. There is a very human element to this, there is a deep sense of injustice."

Aaron from Croydon was predicted an A* and two As for his A-levels, but when the results came today, he ended up with BCC - a drop of six grades.

Speaking to James O'Brien, he said: "This is a catastrophic failure from this government in allowing young people to have a future.

"There is no logic, there is no understanding, there is no thought-process given.

"And the back-pedalling from the Department of Education yesterday with this stupid triple-lock which they thought was going to save the day.

"It's done nothing. They only did it as a reactionary measure because of what Scotland and Wales were doing.

"I call - and I think I speak to everyone - for Mr Gavin Williamson to resign, he is an absolute abomination of an Education Secretary. He is a disgrace."

When asked what happened to his friends, he said: "I've got friends that were predicted As and A*s who ended up getting Ds.

"There are so many people who have suffered and not everyone is in the financial decision to repeat year 13. Some people's only way forward is going to university."

A-level student Harry was predicted two As and a C, but was "shocked" when he opened his grades to see he had been awarded two Cs and a D, possibly dashing his hopes to read Law with Business at Oxford Brookes.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari, he said: "To be honestly I'm quite shocked.

"We had an email from the headmaster this morning saying this morning's results for those of you who did well congratulations, but basically trying to fluff over what is basically a really big mistake on behalf the government.

"And I think the government needs to take into consideration what happened with Scotland last week and leave that as an open option.

"Because having listened to your programme this morning, as well as other radio programmes, there's not a lot of talk about research.

"But we're forgetting that people never sat these exams in the first place.

When asked if he will resit in October, he said: "I just don't know how I'd make up for the time lost with virtual classes, you'd never be able to get back to the level you were when you were going to take the exams the first time."

Sarah, a Head of Sixth Form at a school in West London, told LBC she is "furious" after nine of her pupils had their predicted C-grades reduced to a U.

She told LBC: "I've never been so disgusted as I am this morning. What's happened to swathes of my students is just called disgusting, it's absolutely inhumane.

"And I heard on the television last night that it was only a minority of students who'd be affected by one grade. We've got students who've been downgraded by four grades.

"I haven't worked out the results in yesterday because I've been fielding phone calls from students and parents in tears this morning, I've got a landline and a school mobile and I'm just taking call after call for students that have not going to top universities.

"And these are students that have worked really hard and are often first generation going to university in their family.

"They've had places offered at UCL and LSE, Cambridge, universities which are really, really hard to get into in the first place, and there are finding out that they've lost those places because their grades have been downgraded so much.

"We've had a medical course where nine of the students have predicted a C, and all nine have gone down to a U.

"Our A Level Biology course, every student in the class has been downgraded by two grades.

When asked if the students would appeal, Sarah said: "We're going to try and appeal for the whole school for every single grade, but we don't know if anything's going to happen.

"And at the moment, students are losing their university places.

What should have been done is they should have gone with the teacher predicted grades.

"I think the government needs to do a big fat U turn right now and go and do what they've done in Scotland for the safety of students in their futures."

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