A-Level Results 2020

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.

Yours Sincerely,

Dave MacCormick

Headteacher

18 thoughts on “A-Level Results 2020

  1. Thankyou D ave MacCormick,
    What a fantastic letter and I sincerely hope that it is read and comprehended by our local MP and expressed with vigour to those that have taken these steps to downgrade so many of the hard working students of Holyrood.
    Let us hope that the Government quickly comes to the realisation that these now disadvantaged students are those who will be using their vote at the next election!.
    As a retired member of staff I am fully aware of the commitment and dedication of Holyrood staff and truly feel their pain and frustration at these so called results.
    Let us hope there is a quick “U” turn on so many of these results.
    Yours, Rebecca Shaw

  2. The grading system is truly unfair as it doesn’t take into consideration the hard work put in by students. I hope the Department for Education will see the chaos this system causes and go back to treating students as individuals and awarding them the grades they have worked so hard for.

  3. Absolutely shocked reading this. The grading system is totally unfair and the injustice of it all is plan to see.
    I sincerely hope the government rethinks this situation as they did in Scotland.

  4. This situation is grossly unfair, heartbreaking for the students and their families. Gavin Williamson said we cannot take teachers marks as the standard as it would be unfair to 2019 and 2021 students. Haven’t the youngsters lost enough this year, we can err on the side of caution and take teachers grades in good faith. They are the professionals who have nurtured these young people over the years. After all if they are unable to hack it in University they would soon be exposed and the matter would be resolved.

  5. It isn’t until you see the factual position so starkly laid out with the personal implications on students who have worked so hard and been supported through their courses by dedicated professionals, that you realise how grossly unfair this is.
    Thank goodness Mr MacCormick has clearly explained the appalling situation and is determined to do all he can to get this injustice overturned.
    The disparity, (once again), between Scotland, who eventually recognised and addressed their errors by giving every student their expected grades, only adds insult to injury.
    Those in authority are continuing to try and defend their indefensible positions. They cannot be allowed to ignore the plight of the young people Mr MacCormick has highlighted – which must be replicated throughout the country with numerous young people affected.

    I will be writing to my MP and hopefully the public will not let those responsible for this debacle ruin the futures of the Corona virus generation.
    Please support Mr MacCormick and the students by also bringing this to your MPs attention.

  6. This is so unfair for all the students who have worked so hard. I have known Rachael through girlguiding for many years and she was clearly destined for great things from a young age. I hope this gets resolved soon.

  7. I applaud you Mr Mac Cormac, as an ex Holyrood student many moons ago! , and a Mother of two, now ex students, it is incredibly heartening to witness the headmaster of Holyrood having the guts to stand so firm against the diabolical, devastating situation our poor children find them selves having to face.
    All power to your strength of conviction.
    Thank you

  8. What a cogent and powerful analysis of your school’s experience of results and importantly the unacceptable impact on your young people. This should be widely shared. Thank you for sharing.

  9. An algorithm that pulls down individual students by multiple grades in multiple subjects is brutal. There has been a bloodbath at Hollyrood Academy and many other schools and it seems the professional opinion of teachers was not required at all. Perhaps we should apply a similar algorithm to votes given to conservative candidates in elections in areas where that party does not normally do so well. The number of votes would be amended and based on previous conservative candidate results.

  10. The points made are irrefutable. The situation in NDevon is the same. How can any government politician justify their position? One local student – C for Maths and A for Further Maths

  11. This is absolutely terrible. So clear that there has been a total misjustice when putting the results so plainly. How can someone be penalised for where they come from or depending on what size class they were in? I seriously hope this gets sorted but these students shouldn’t have to go through the appeal process in the first place. As a former Holyrood student I can categorically say it is a great school and sixth form where great results are achieved. My heart goes out to Rachael and everyone else affected. Keeping everything crossed for you that this does not impact your future studies and careers.

  12. Well done Mr Mac Cormick for saying this and publicising it. I will contact Marcus Fysh too and refer to your letter. My children attended Holyrood in the past and got an excellent education there.

  13. It’s so sickening that no attention is being paid to the carefully awarded marks that the teachers awarded. Clearly a deeply flawed algorithm that works against larger sixth forms. Outrageous.

  14. Excellent letter. We watched you on BBC Breakfast this morning, speaking with such integrity.
    Interestingly, a Deputy Head Teacher friend of ours made this remark:

    “A levels…

    If anyone doubts who the winners are this year, here’s a random selection of independent schools and the % of A*-A grades this year.

    2019 figures follow in brackets.

    Mayfield Girls’ 66% (55%)
    Sherfield School 70% (37%)Farlington School 62% (48%)
    The Marist School 55% (52%)
    Godolphin School 50% (29.2%)
    St Mary’s Cambridge 54% (51%)
    St George’s Ascot 63% (35%)
    Rye St Anthony 48.1% (18.3%)

    A shout out to the dunces at the last school on the list who said its A-A*s had ‘gone up 30%’ (it’s +165%)
    Leweston School 51% (37%)
    This really was a random sample. Every single school has gained. I know there can be variation from one year to the next but according to this sample the babies born from Sep 2001-August 2002 were a fair bit smarter than the previous year’s.
    But only the privately-educated ones.

    Many of these schools’ pupils will have been given grades assigned by their teachers and will not have been scrutinised or amended because the class sizes are <5.
    https://t.co/efVwb9qoA7 is not publishing exam results by school for 2020, making comparisons much more difficult."

    Sobering, outrageously unfair and so glad you are making a stand for our local students.
    Susan & Carl Winch

  15. Having been sitting on the other side dealing with applicants to university in clearing I have seen this disaster 1st hand. We have seen some utter horror stories. We are now using CAG grades rather than the arbitrary grades awarded by the A-level system. I think many young people are not aware of quite how badly they have been shafted by the Conservatives – but they will remember.

  16. Thank you for this clear report and I hope you might forward it to Jolyon Maughan who is putting a case together on this most unjust action by the current government. I do hope your students get justice and I wish them well for their futures at this difficult time for the country and the world.

  17. I read Mr MacCormacks analysis of the A level results and was appalled that the results were downgraded due to the area we live in. This is so unfair and reading what has happened to Rachael actually made me cry. Well done Mr MacCormack for supporting and speaking up for all Holyrood students. Lets hope this fiasco is sorted out quickly and Rachael and the other students get the grades they so obviously deserve.

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