A-Level Results Scandal

Posted on 30th August 2020

What the tumultuous year 2020 has been, we cannot go a day without being exposed to shocking forms of injustice in this country. This time, there were apparent discrepancies in the A-level grades students received. The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson revealed that the “majority of young people will have received a calculated grade that enables them to progress to the destination they deserve”. This statement was very out of touch because many students have been faced with results that they did not in fact “deserve” but instead were given grades that did not reflect their attainment, efforts or teacher predictions. 


Studying for my A-levels was very important as I saw it as a significant step in going to a top university. I was very fortunate and secured a place at The University of Manchester to study Sociology. However, for many high achievers, they were robbed of being able to go to their dream university. An astounding 40% of A-level grades which were awarded were lower than their teacher’s predictions and this disproportionately affected working-class pupils who studied at “disadvantaged” schools. The Conservative government thought it was justifiable to standardise student’s grades based on the school’s previous performance/area it was situated in and not look at the individuals own ability.


Through studying sociology, it is apparent to me that there are significant class inequalities at play here. Many educational policies stunt the progression of many schools and their pupils. For example, with the introduction of marketisation came exam league tables, which ensure that schools with good results are more in demand because parents are attracted to those with high rankings. However, this means that top schools can be selective in the pupils they want in their school and can recruit high achieving middle-class pupils that reflected their values and norms. This, in turn, leaves out many working-class pupils who are left to go to worse schools as they may not have the economic capital to move to the catchment area of a successful school. Significant class inequalities are reproduced here because it means that there are two different types of schools with one receiving the most academic pupils and consequently a lot of funding from the government, whilst more “disadvantaged’ schools are left to suffer.


It is important to give this backstory because it explains the forms of injustice at play today. The government just believes that because a school is in a disadvantaged area or has had poor results previously, that a pupil’s grades now should be reflective of this. This is very counter-productive because when generalising about a school’s performance, you fail to look at the individual’s potential, in which there will always be several high achievers, not mater the school you are examining. It is apparent that A-levels are of high importance for many, and there is a great stress pressure to perform to a high standard, especially in many ethnic households which place pride on academic success and future prospects. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine that you may be from a ‘materially deprived’ background but was a pupil of high intellect. However, due to the government's flawed policy, you obtained grades that did not mirror your efforts or academic abilities. This is awful and because of such wrongdoings, it is now leaving many students with their mental health being in a poor place. Through looking on twitter, I was exposed to many students saying how they were depressed by their results and felt their future was being tarnished. This year has left many students feeling disheartened, feeling like they are not worthy of any rewards for their efforts, and this is wrong.


This scandal has highlighted the fact that we do not live in a meritocratic society. Our Conservative government would argue that everyone is given an equal opportunity and will achieve rewards through their own ability and efforts. This idea is inherently flawed because we have students who were working until 8 pm daily in the library to achieve high grades, but were ‘rewarded’ with two grades below from what they were predicted. Consequently, these pupils would not have been able to advance to their dream universities. Whereas, students who went to private schools would have benefited greatly, because such schools saw the biggest rise in the top A-level grades. Shockingly, this was allowed to happen, it is evident that this country continuously reproduces class inequalities in which the less unfortunate are always left to suffer and this needs to change. 



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