I honestly feel like lockdown has opened the eyes of many to the realities of what it means to be a black person in the UK. Although we already knew that we faced microagressions, were more likely to die during childbirth and less likely to sit on boards in FTSE 100 companies, it’s as if lockdown and Corona has shone a light on the many inadequacies we face on a daily basis.
From BAME communities being mostly affected by Coronavirus, the death of George Floyd in the USA (not to mention the many others that came before and that have followed since) and most recently the downgrading of A-Level results in less affluent areas in the UK. I watched a recent news segment where Boris described what happened as a “mutant algorithm” affecting A-Level results and all I could do as I watched his bumbling explanation was roll my eyes and kiss my teeth in utter disdain. Let’s call a spade a spade Boris! Whether it was an algorithm or someone allocating specific grades to specific areas, what happened with the A-Level results was a clear example of systemic racism in full force.
I’m not going to dive into a debate about why what happened proved systemic racism is still VERY prevalent in the UK because that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is to highlight just one of the many people and lives impacted by this so called “mutant” algorithm. Suzette from Northwest London (Harrow) who was a Year 13 student this year kindly answered a few of our questions on how this whole palaver impacted her and her plans for the future. For the full interview, read on!
Do you go to a state school or private school?
What A Level subjects did you study?
Biology, Economics, Psychology
What were your predicted grades?
My teachers predicted grades for me up until quarantine were ABB-BBB, personally I was expecting ABB, since in my most recent mock exam that took place in March just before lockdown, I achieved BBC. With teachers beginning to put us under strict exam practice we were told that we should expect our final grades to be one grade higher than our most recent mocks, which would have given me an AAB.
As a black student have you ever felt marginalised?
Yes, even by some teachers, I feel like as a black student you’re either expected to be smart or bottom of the class, there is no in between. Moreover, there is a feeling that as a black student you do not get an equal amount of leeway as your non-black counterparts unless your teacher is the same race as you which is rare. For example, me having a bad test will be more damaging to my teachers’ image of me than the same happening to a non-black counterpart.
What university were you hoping to attend and what course were you planning to study?
I had an offer from Nottingham University for Physiotherapy with a grade requirement of AAB, although Nottingham had emailed me assuring me that entry requirements will be more lenient and even missing the grades slightly would not mean I would lose my place.
How did the initial results affect your university placement?
The initial results gave me the grades CCC meaning I lost my place for Physiotherapy at Nottingham University. Fortunately, my insurance offer at St Georges University was changed to an unconditional offer, not due to my grades but due to my personal performance in interviews and my personal statement.
Did the review and subsequent change of results impact you in any way?
The review did not have any affect, as my teachers followed the system the government provided where students are ranked against their classmates. My school matched the government’s grade for 84% of the cases, and currently I still have the grades CCC.
Has this situation impacted your ability to trust the government and/ or the education system?
Definitely, this experience where students in private schools have barely been affected or have had their grades increased (by no fault of their own), while students in state schools have had their grades unfairly downgraded has shown the government’s as well as the educations system’s priorities. My trust in both has fallen drastically and as a young adult it makes me think if this is really the government I want in charge of my future.
I feel let down by the educational system, now that the government have allowed students to use CAG (Centre Assessment Grades) results, they have taken away the opportunity for students to use mock grades which would have increased my grades and potentially allowed me to get into my firm choice. Although I am disappointed with my sixth form, teachers have expressed how they wanted to grade students who deserved higher grades up but could not because of the system they were forced to follow.
Will you consider going to university next year instead?
No, I will not. There is no guarantee the government will have sorted out the current situation as a tested vaccine for COVID-19 with clearing to be used in general practitioners may not be ready until next year. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that I will be able to start school properly in September to restart this academic year in order to do well in an exam which will be counted as a resit. This situation has been extremely stressful for me personally and people in my academic year, I would like to move forward, not push my life backwards by a year.
What advice will you give to someone in the same position as you?
Not to let these results define you; they are a representation of a failed academic system not your worth as a student. If you planned to go to university this year but didn’t get the university you hoped to get into, no matter what university you get into the quality of work you provide and the amount of effort you put in is the most important part. Next election let us not allow this same party to stay in control of our futures.