Editor’s note: In this plea to the U.K. government, writer Imaan Asim calls for calm and rational decision making with the betterment of the population in mind. At a time when governments have been scrambling to get organized, forward thinking policies and planning seem to have dissipated into a cloud of unruly panic. It seems utterly inconceivable that this needs stating out loud, but governments need to step up and provide the type of leadership that comes part-and-parcel of being an elected leader. So far, many have failed. In this op-ed, Imaan tackles how the British government is well on their way to failing students in schools across the U.K.
On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, Boris Johnson’s government decided to cancel all GCSE and A-Level exams this summer, in a reactive response to the growing COVID-19 outbreak.
The decision came as an immediate shock to students across the country, with no further explanation as to what measures would be put in place to determine how students get examination results, or university places. Teachers and parents were not consulted in this decision, furthering the pain felt over these actions.
Discussions taking place on social media and within our classrooms the next day, which would be the last day of school forever for many, was warped with uncertainty. Some of us had spent the past day crying and having anxiety attacks over what would become of our futures. Teachers continued lessons as normal, unsure if the content they were teaching us was even necessary.
Several theories within the 48 hour wait period before a second announcement was made were circulating. One was the use of predicted grades being awarded to GCSE and A-Level students. This is highly unfair. There is a large inconsistency with the use of predicted grades, with some schools, such as my own, under-predicting students so that their statistics seem higher, and other schools over-predicting students so that they receive more offers.
Our education system is known to undervalue and under represent BAME (Black, Asian, minority ethnic) kids, with teachers often having little faith in the grades we know we have the potential to achieve.
Furthermore, there is a discrepancy in predicted grades awarded to BAME children, in comparison to their white counterparts. Our education system is known to undervalue and under represent BAME (Black, Asian, minority ethnic) kids, with teachers often having little faith in the grades we know we have the potential to achieve.
Similarly, the use of mock grades and teacher assessments have been cited as a possibility to award grades. It is evident that schools also have a disparity in these results, with some offering harder papers and harsher marking than others, hence having lower mock results.
Teacher assessments feed into a larger conversation of micro-aggressions and educational biases, with white teachers more likely to provide a lower assessment for BAME kids. For example, despite my 8A*s and 2As at GCSE, my previous A-Level Chemistry teacher stated that I would not get an A* in Chemistry or get into a top university, only after one month of teaching me. This is only one example from many.
I am calling on the government to seriously consider the impacts their educational legislations have on children, and our futures. The 2001/2002 academic year has consistently been the guinea pig cohort, with us having to sit the new SATs in Year 6, then be the first year to sit the new 9-1 GCSEs in Year 11. And now, we get to be the Year 13’s who have their A-Levels cancelled, the most important of the three qualification exams. Our A-Levels literally determine the future of our academics. Surely they deserve proper consideration that goes beyond, “stick with your predicted grades.”
So What Happened Next?
On Friday, March 20, the government announced that students could appeal the teacher-assessed grades given, and if unhappy, could still sit exams early next academic year. Whilst this news may come as reassurance, there is still a lack of clarity and frustration surrounding this decision.
Our future has been held in the hands of politicians like Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, who have shown time and time again that they simply do not care about our mental health or academic prospects. As students, we understand the decision to close schools was necessary; however, cancelling exams was a rash decision which should be given more careful consideration. Our hard work for two years feels as though it has all gone completely down the drain, with no sense of remorse from those who are responsible.
An A-Level Student.
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