‘Awful, just awful’ – York A level students reveal toll of grading fiasco as ministers announce U-turn

Students from Staffordshire protest outside the constituency office of their local MP, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson over the A level grades. Photograph: Jacob King / PA Wire
17 Aug 2020 @ 6.39 pm
| Education

York A level students who were downgraded thanks to the Ofqual algorithm have revealed how distressing the experience was.

The students spoke of their dismay and shock, on the day that the government performed a U-turn on the issue.

Following criticism from students and headteachers and complaints from dozens of Tory MPs, grades will now be based on teachers’ assessments rather than a controversial algorithm devised by regulator Ofqual.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and education secretary Gavin Williamson had previously defended the “robust” system, which saw almost 40% of grades reduced from teachers’ predictions.

The change will also apply to GCSE results in England, which are due to be released on Thursday.

Mr Williamson apologised for the handling of the process, which followed the cancellation of exams due to coronavirus.

‘Very upsetting’

Students received their grades this week. Photograph: Danny Lawson / PA Wire

These were some of the students in and near York who contacted YorkMix to express their shock at being awarded grades much lower than they expected.

Their comments were made before today’s ministerial U-turn, and reveal how much distress last Thursday’s grades caused.

“I have spent seven years working hard in order to attend my university of choice. However, having had all my centre assessed grades downgraded I have been rejected from my preferred uni. It has been a very upsetting experience, not just due to rejection, but because I know that if I had taken the exams I could have done better. The whole system is completely immoral and unfair as some students maintain their centre assessed grades, whilst others have theirs downgraded my multiple grades, yet having put in the same amount of work throughout their school career”
Bootham School student

“I was predicted to get ABC but then got given BBE. Even the EPQ was downgraded from an A to a B, and the E grade was lower than what I got in mocks. I feel severely disadvantaged by this system, and whilst I’m glad I got my insurance in Leicester, it’s terrible that cumulatively I was downgraded four times!”
Fulford School student

“Originally I got A* A* A A in history, biology, chemistry and maths respectively then 75% of my grades were mediated! I ended up with A A A B which are good grades but that B in maths prevented me from getting into my firm and I ended up at my insurance. It is just unfair how they are completely changing peoples’ lives. Awful, just awful.”
Archbishop Holgate’s School student

“All my life I have always prioritised exams when they were important. This meant I achieved 15 grade 9/A* at GCSE and 6As at AS. The governments algorithm still downgraded my results to the point that I could no longer apply to my first-choice university. This was despite my track record of always achieving the highest possible grades. I feel like the government has failed me”
Ripon Grammar

Confusion remains

Anika Schwarze-Chintapatla, who is a member of York Youth Council, said: “The A Level grading system was outrageously unfair, whereby an algorithm was risking our whole futures without any knowledge of our past performances or work ethic.

“So many have lost uni places and now with the U-turn announced we are still unsure as to whether they can regain them.

“The huge confusion has been so stressful for all of us and its been an all in all awful experience. Thankfully some of the unfairness has been overturned and a lot of people’s lives are getting back on track.

“However this delay has made everything even more complicated. Having been taken out of school months early and then waiting for results for five further months has meant that the outrage was felt amongst us even more.

“So many tears have been shed across the country because of these results, and although a step has been made to try and fix it, the last four days have been a living nightmare for so many. It’s not an experience we are likely to forget.

“If this U-turn hadn’t happened we would have been disadvantaged for the rest of our lives.”