The events of the past two days, including the unfair and disproportionate downgrading of Holyrood Academy students’ results have led me to write to the school’s local MP, Marcus Fysh. Please share this far and wide to encourage the Government to reconsider its position and award all young people their Centre Assessment Grades.
Dear Mr Fysh,
The purpose of my letter is to bring matters regarding the awarding of A-Level results to your attention in my role as Headteacher of Holyrood Academy, that I am sure are being raised by many of your constituents.
I have spent the past few days, alongside my dedicated Senior Leadership, Exams and Sixth Form Teams, attempting to make sense of the ‘results’ we have received to distribute to our Sixth Form leavers yesterday. It was a truly harrowing experience as many students were denied a place at their chosen University, or indeed any University, as a result of the scale of downgrading caused by your Government’s strategy.
To give a sense of clarity and context to my letter before I go any further, I would like to share the following information with you:
- At Holyrood Academy this year, 34% of grades have been downgraded by 1 or 2 grades.
- 6% have been downgraded by 2 grades.
- 6% of grades went up by 1 grade.
- No grades went up by 2 grades.
- We have experienced significant downgrading at CAG grade A to B across A-Levels and at Pass to U in some Level 3 BTEC subjects.
- Students at Holyrood Academy have been awarded significantly more U grades than ever before.
- We have experienced significant downgrading in some subjects, namely Biology, Business Studies, Computing, Engineering, Geography, History, Mathematics and Photography.
- In Biology, 11 out of 12 grades were downgraded, 4 by 2 grades, including 1 student from A to C which meant she missed the requirements of her offer to study Medicine at Cardiff University.
- In Business Studies, 5 out of 8 grades were downgraded, 1 by 2 grades.
- In Computing, 4 out of 5 grades were downgraded, 1 by 2 grades. Crucially here, the promise to honour CAGs in cohort sizes of 5 or less students has not been kept.
- In Engineering, 9 out of 12 grades were downgraded, including an inexplicable 6 grades from Pass to U grade.
- In Geography, 5 out of 15 grades were downgraded, 3 by 2 grades including 1 student from A* to B meaning he missed the entry requirements to study Geography at Exeter University.
- In History, 3 out of 7 grades were downgraded, 1 by 2 grades (who happens to be an extremely talented Historian).
- In Mathematics, 5 out of 8 grades were downgraded, 3 by 2 grades including 1 from D to U grade.
- In Photography, 4 out of 7 grades were downgraded, 2 by 2 grades including 1 from D to U grade.
These are the facts and our young people’s life chances have been seriously hindered by your Government’s policy.
You know Chard well and as such, you are aware that there are pockets of significant deprivation within the town. You will also be aware that Holyrood Academy serves the entire town as the only secondary school in the area. We are a truly comprehensive school and Sixth Form Centre. I can categorically say that we have seen a disproportionate downgrading students who were formerly in receipt of PP funding and those who are from disadvantaged areas. This will not come as a surprise to you as Ofqual has published its interim report on this summer’s results. It clearly shows that those from low SES backgrounds have been downgraded more often at every grade and that this is most prevalent at the highest grades. You can find this report attached to this email.
It is bad enough that we have an education system that is permeated by and recreates such fundamental inequalities, year-on-year. It is morally reprehensible to deliberately recreate this trend and this is what the current Government strategy has done.
The students who have received these grades are powerless, totally at the mercy of the system, having had no opportunity to determine their own futures. One student I supported yesterday, Rachael, achieved straight grade 9s at GCSE. She worked tirelessly, every lesson, every day and more at home. She came in early, left late and worked tirelessly because she aspired to study Medicine. She engaged fully in our MedPrep programme and achieved a UCAT (Medical Admissions Test) result in the top 5% of results nationally. She is exceptional in every way. When deciding upon her CAGs, her teachers awarded her AAA in English, Biology and Chemistry. They could have erred on the positive side and given her A*A*A*, but they did not because they did not feel they had enough evidence. They were honest, professional and acted with integrity to award our students the grades they deserve, supported by evidence.
Your Government’s strategy awarded her ACC. She did not meet the requirements of her offer.
Rachael is now waiting for an appeal process to determine whether she can fulfil her dream of becoming a Doctor. We are extremely proud of her and so are her supportive and loving parents. They are not Doctors and they are full of pride and admiration of the fact that their daughter will be one from a ‘normal’ background – no private education, no millions, no favours or privilege to smooth the way for her. It is also worth mentioning that had there been one fewer student in her Chemistry class, Ofqual’s algorithm would have awarded her an A grade, not a C. Therein lies the problem. Young people’s futures are being dictated and decided by an algorithm that perpetuates inequality, the success of those who attend historically successful schools and the success of those of higher socio-economic status.
That is privilege – the road to success is smoothed for some and is constantly steepened for others.
Holyrood Academy exists to drive social justice and social mobility within our community: to allow young people to open doors that may otherwise be closed to them. They are empowered to achieve their very best and encouraged to work their hardest to get what they deserve. This method of allocating grades has destroyed that link between hard work and success and has instead replaced it with grades determined by historical performance of others like you – but not you.
I urge you in the strongest possible terms to use your voice on behalf of your constituents to secure a review of the Government’s strategy for grade awards at A-Level and ahead of GCSE results next week. The only fair outcome is for all young people to receive their CAG as the use of mock results brings further inconsistency and unfairness.
I would be happy to discuss any aspect of this further and would welcome you to Holyrood Academy at any time.