Socialist Worker

Furious students protest over A-Levels scandal

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2718

Students marched to the Department for Education in protest at downgrading

Students marched to the Department for Education in protest at downgrading (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Furious students marched in central London on Friday demanding that Tory education secretary Gavin Williamson resign.

The action came the day after hundreds of thousands of students found their A-Level results had been downgraded.

Students are angry that their futures lie in tatters just because of where they come from. Aali Khan from Walthamstow told Socialist Worker, “For me this is the difference between a pass and a fail, and the loss of my university place.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do now. But I’m not just here for me. I’m here for every single person who has lost out over this.”

Naomi James-Mitchell, who goes to school in Westminster, said the downgrading is about poverty and racism.

“I’m a black student at a state school so they don’t expect much from me,” she told Socialist Worker. “I cried for I don’t know how long after I got my results. My physics grade was bumped down by two grades.”

Naomi said she got A*s, As and a B in her GCSEs, but had been given BCDD in her A-Levels. She had caring responsibilities during her studying, which affected her mock exam results.

System

“The system hasn’t changed,” she said. “It’s always felt this way. It’s just that this has made things more public. But even if Gavin Williamson tries to justify it, people will see through their BS.”

Students have been downgraded because of a standardisation system, based on an algorithm. This judges grades partly on what school people go to – and hands higher grades to richer students.

The demo was called by union activists at a couple of sixth forms at short notice on Thursday. It was young, black, working class–and angry.

Students and school workers marched from Downing Street to the Department for Education (DfE) chanting, “Fuck the algorithm”, “Grades, not postcodes” and, “No Tories, no cheats, no Eton elites.”

Shanaj from Tower Hamlets, east London, told Socialist Worker, “They’ve suppressed our futures. People who come from deprived areas have the ability to get As and A*s, but they’ve been given to students in private schools.

“Gavin Williamson said it isn’t fair to give us ‘inflated’ grades. But we aren’t asking for inflated grades–we just want what we deserve.”

Sairah (left) and Shanaj (right)

Sairah (left) and Shanaj (right) (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Sairah agreed. “All of my exams were down by one grade,” she told Socialist Worker. “And all my friends are down by at least one grade. Some are down by three.”

Btec student Glen from Wandsworth in south London said he’d been “bloody devastated” when he got his results. “I was predicted a distinction, distinction, merit and I got a merit, merit, pass,” he told Socialist Worker.

Tory retreat on exams still fails to make the grade
Tory retreat on exams still fails to make the grade
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“It’s no secret why. The places that normally do well are the places that are well funded. It’s all about postcode.”

Aali said, “It’s stereotypical to judge us by our area. It’s not a true representation of what we are as individuals. It’s not fair–we are capable of much greater things.”

Aali said the government should listen to teacher grades instead of the algorithm, and many other students agreed.

But Naomi told the crowd, “My teachers didn’t believe in me as much as in my white counterparts.”

And medical student Kia, who has lost her university place due to downgrading, said, “Teacher assessed grades are not the way to go. Teachers don’t know all the work I’ve done since my mocks.”

At the DfE, Williamson refused to come and speak to students, while staff kept the doors closed. In speeches on the street outside, protesters stressed the need to keep fighting.

Teacher Alistair pointed out that GCSE results will be released on Thursday. “We need to be back here again next week,” he told the crowd. “This can only be solved by protest.”

Protest Exam Justice Now , Sack Tory Exam Cheats, Friday 21 August, 12 noon, Downing Street, London. Details here 

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