Students awaiting their A-level results in England have been racked with anxiety amid reports that the grades estimated for them after coronavirus cancelled exams could be reduced.
In Scotland, the exam authority rejected a quarter of all grade recommendations from teachers this year, while south of the border nearly 40% of results submitted by teachers are expected to be downgraded under the algorithm used by the regulator Ofqual to help decide the fates of university hopefuls.
With results day on Thursday edging closer, we spoke to some of the students having sleepless nights amid fears that high-achieving pupils from lower-achieving schools could lose out.
‘I’m coming to the realisation that I might not get in and there isn’t really anything I can do’
I thought that I’d be fine and get into my dream university, but I’m coming to the realisation that I might not get in, and there isn’t really anything I can do. I understand it’s a really unpredictable situation which the government is trying to make as fair as possible, but they’re not listening to what students think. They’re just saying, “This is what’s going to happen and you have to deal with it.”
I also appreciate that teachers would want their students to do well and may be a bit biased, but using a program that calculates our grades will not accurately represent our abilities and would disadvantage a lot of people. I suffer from really bad anxiety, so I’m trying not to think about it.
Umayr, 19, Hounslow
‘We cannot even appeal for our results independently like some can in Scotland’
Sleepless nights, constant worry and agonising about every possible outcome that could result from results day has taken over my life. The overall approach that has been taken to supposedly predict our worth is unfair and will cripple students who are not well off, like it did in Scotland. It is mostly based on a discriminating statistical system where those with a higher status and more money will come out better.
The fact that we cannot even appeal for our results independently like some can in Scotland shows the inequalities that students will face and this keeps me in a frenzy of constant worry. Plus, there is no talk about how this will negatively impact a student’s mental health and life opportunities, let alone there being any details available about any services that could be open to us.
Arta, 18, Essex
‘I’m afraid I’ll be discriminated against for living in a working-class area’
I’m feeling really stressed and worried about results day. I’m afraid I’ll be discriminated against for living in a working-class area, as that’s what happened in Scotland. A lot of people with predicted As got Cs and Ds, and I think that’s unfair. This will favour private school kids more than disadvantaged working-class students at state school.
This is a very unfair way of grading students. They said a lot of grades will be based on statistical averages, so I feel they just don’t trust how the teachers have graded us, and it shows that Ofqual do not trust our teachers as much as they are making out. I’m in a better position than others as I have an unconditional offer for my insurance university choice, but I really want to get my firm one.
Susan, 18, Derbyshire
‘If it’s based on an algorithm rather than individual students’ attainment, that’s a recipe for disaster’
I am mostly concerned about high achievers from historically poorly performing schools. They are undoubtedly going to be hit the hardest by these new measures, jeopardising their university place. It’s unfair; the government are trying to portray themselves as widening participation. But this computer program is not doing this and will hit the poorest.
I really don’t know how I’ll do. I’ve worked hard through sixth form and my mock results were good, but I’m just not sure about my school’s previous attainment. It’s a mixed comp. I think we’re slightly above average. But I don’t really trust Ofqual at all. If it’s based on an algorithm rather than individual students’ attainment, that’s a recipe for disaster.
Sophie, 18, Sutton
‘The system shows a disregard for the professional opinion of teachers’
This punitive system established by Ofqual will extract arbitrary and meaningless grades in accordance with an institution’s past performance. It will favour those in more affluent areas. The system also shows a flagrant disregard for the professional opinion of teachers as the exam boards can simply change the grade against the will of the teacher, who knows the students and their past, present and future ability.
I would personally consider myself to be in a relative position of advantage as Wokingham has a good track record in regard to exam results. However, my school is up-and-coming and so results may be depressed. Standardisation is massively dependent on what schools have achieved before. This will perpetuate the class divide within our education system.
Ryan, 18, Wokingham