Unlevel A-Levels

Haringey resident organises student protest in Westminster after A-Level grading fiasco

Ted Mellow (centre, holding sign) protests against unfair exam grading system
Credit: VXP/ Vudi Xhymshiti

By Luchia Robinson

Ted Mellow, 18, headed to Parliament Square with thousands of fellow students, last month, protesting against the government’s A-Level marking system, which left many young people with downgraded results.

Local resident Ted, who coordinated the protest with friend, Stanley Lewis, 18, from Mill Hill, was predicted 3 A*s but received grades: A*, B, B. He said: “I think the general consensus from everyone who is in the same position as me, is that we’re not trying to get A*s and A’s − we are trying to get the grades we feel we deserve.”

Approximately 40% of A-Level grades were downgraded from those initially predicted by their teachers, after exams regulator Ofqual used an algorithm based on schools’ exam histories to award this year’s results. This system meant university places were immediately taken by those who received the highest final grades.

Ted wants to apply to Cambridge University in his gap year, but believes the grades he has received will make it difficult for him. He said: “I have been impacted in quite a significant way. I feel, I did however, get off quite lucky compared to other people.”

The government made a U-turn following widespread uproar about the algorithm grading system, which was widely criticised for being discriminatory and biased to favour privately educated students.

Backlash came from across the UK, with Tottenham MP David Lammy tweeting that this year’s grading experience was: ‘Utterly damaging to thousands at state schools and hugely demoralising for their teachers and parents.’

The government U-turn means originally predicted teacher/ Centre Assessed Grades (CAG) are now officially recognised instead of the algorithm’s calculated results.

The U-turn was made to try to re-establish fairness in the English exam system, as well as recreate a level position for the universities admissions service. This has allowed some students the opportunity to try and get their university places reinstated, however, it came too late for other students who were left without places because their entry offers had been re-allocated.

Ted said: “The government U-turn puts a lot of people who are in very bad positions, in better ones, which I think is needed because these are people’s opportunities and lives that have been affected.

“I do think that the government needs to do more, because whilst they’ve allowed us to use CAGs as a representative for our grades, these CAGs still fall under compliance with the ranking system that they implemented, which involved students having been ranked most and least likely to get an A*. So even with your CAGs, these might not be representative of what the teacher felt you deserved in the exam.

“[The government] could just write off the exams as a whole, and universities would just have to focus on personal statements and interviews more.

“Quite frankly, I feel A-Level students have been messed over.”

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