Shattered Dreams

It’s not very often I do politics here anymore – it’s not that I’m no longer political, or that I’ve mellowed, even: It’s more that the current political situation in this country and the wider world is now so far beyond reason and parody that even my long lost and dearly missed friend The Plastic Hippo would have a hard time writing about it.

It’s like living in a Charlie Broker script every day. Image from the Daily Telegraph.

I received a note on the A level farce that’s unfolding on Saturday from a good friend of the blog who wishes to remain nameless. It’s very eloquent on the matter of the deeply iniquitous, shambolic and downright contemptuous handling of the estimated exam results currently wreaking havoc on a generation’s ambitions – and I feel it should be shared here.

This is such a political and statistical car crash that it’s breathtaking. The people responsible for the disastrous software that created the mess refused help from statistical experts in creating a working algorithm, because the two experts involved refused to sign five year gagging orders. That this was even an issue shows the calibre of politician we’re dealing with.

Meanwhile, can the kids count on the support of the local Tory MPs? Steady Eddie Hughes and Wendy ‘Will there be a photocall?’ Morton remain characteristically silent, Fabricant continues his usual peacock strutting. These people have nothing but contempt for the youngsters who have had their dreams dashed.

Our esteemed MP will be putting on her serious face if she comments at all. ‘Is this glum enough, Jeff?’

I had hoped that with a Boris led government, that although he would be a flag waving blowhard, there might at least be some leadership at last. I was wrong – his absence throughout the A Level crisis, and continual deputising of other issues shows the PM as weak, apathetic and his government rudderless.

This country and its youth deserve better.

Secret Teacher wrote:

As a Brownhillian now teaching elsewhere, I am proud of my roots and grateful for the opportunities given to me by my teachers. I was lucky in that my A-level results were decent enough for me to go to university and then pursue my chosen career. The same cannot be said for a large number of Brownhillians in the class of 2020.

Whatever your political colours, I would hope that few would disagree that the handling of this year’s A-level results has been devastating for many of our young people. The pandemic saw public exams cancelled and centre assessed grades submitted that were then to be standardised by exam boards. Thousands of students across the country have had their teachers’ estimates downgraded by a flawed algorithm simply because of their postcode or the size of exam entry. My niece is one of many Brownhills youngsters who falls into this category. She impressed five universities enough at interview for them all to offer her a conditional place. Thanks to her teachers and her relentless hard work, she was on track to achieve three top grades and attend the university of her dreams this year. But alas her hopes were dashed when the aforementioned algorithm reduced her grades in such an unfathomable manner. She is now in limbo because her first choice of university that liked her so much at interview says that the grades she was awarded in exams that she did not even sit are not good enough.

Whilst the overall national statistics might look good on the surface and whilst I understand the government’s need to paint a national picture that is broadly in line with previous years, the fact remains that the right students have not necessarily been awarded the right grades. An algorithm that has downgraded teachers’ estimates by not one, but two and sometimes three grades in numerous cases is not fit for purpose. By all accounts, this is what has happened to so many of my niece’s friends, fellow Brownhillians that chose to do A-levels as a passport to the next stage in their life, whether that be university or another equally valid path. I have been hearing of high-performing students who have gone from A* to D. How can this be?

The government’s solution of the so-called triple-lock is of no consolation. Students can accept their calculated grade, appeal to receive a valid mock result, or sit autumn exams. For many, putting forward their mock results is futile. When students sit their mocks, they haven’t finished the course, they have less time to revise and do not take them as seriously as the real thing. Moreover, they have four months of further study after their mocks in which we as teachers see their progress soar. Furthermore, the opportunity of sitting exams in November is of no use to students who have set their heart on going to university this year.

It is clear from social media that many MPs from across the political spectrum are fighting this injustice for their constituents. I would like to call on Wendy Morton MP, if she is not already doing so, to do the same on behalf of the young people of Brownhills. If you agree with me, I would urge you to drop her a line. Our MPs are after all elected to represent all constituents and I’m sure that Ms Morton has at heart the best interests of these students who through no fault of their own have been let down by the system. I think politicians of all parties would do well to remember that these students are of an age to vote. They will not forget the way in which they have been short-changed and how they were represented the next time we go to the ballot boxes. And I have a sneaky feeling that we’re about to see same unfold but on an even bigger scale when GCSE grades are released on Thursday.


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1 Response to Shattered Dreams

  1. Peter MIller says:

    Absolutely shambolic. Kids lives potentially destroyed by a flawed system. Hopefully, this can be overturned and the kids rightfully getting what they deserve.

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