Results day in the UK was an absolute shambles this year. Whilst I personally did well with my results this year (scoring a D*DD in my course, which is the equivalent of an A*AA), the stress of information coming out at the 11th hour about A level/GCSE students with no information about BTEC students and not being given much information about how I will be graded, alongside seeing friends of mine get fucked over and them having to go through an appeals process which nobody really fully understands, prompted me to make this blog post. Whilst I feel like my results accurately reflected the amount of effort I put into my course, there's so many people that have been screwed over, which honestly makes me sad to see.
If you would like to help the people who got screwed over get some justice, I'd honestly suggest helping out Curtis Parfitt-Ford with his legal challenge. I have personally donated £20 to this and I hope we can all do our part to help him out if that is a cause you wish to help with.
The build up
The build up to results day was horrible. After the initial moment of schools and colleges being locked down, it was clear nobody really knew what was going on.
For A level and GCSE students, it took weeks for a system to be put in place relating to grading. Note that when the government promised a fair system, this ended up being fiction. Before results day, people were hearing through news sources that 40% of exam results were downgraded. This is something you certainly do not want to hear and especially not as a rumor in a newspaper. Note that during this time there was only one open letter to students promising a fair system. A level and GCSE students heard nothing from there.
Even worse was how the triple lock system was implemented. The triple lock system was launched literally the night before results day, forcing schools/colleges/exam boards to have to scramble to understand the system and have an appeals process. As I will discuss later, this was an obvious recipe for disaster.
For BTEC students, this was completely uncertain for months. I blogged about this when it initially was going on, but I am fully of the belief that BTEC students were treated as second class citizens by the government in this situation. For example, for the period of time after the A level/GCSE information was released but before the government released arrangements for vocational courses, there was a period of time where people did not know what they were going to need to submit as evidence. This lead to situations where lecturers, whilst trying their hardest, were asking for work which was very difficult to complete at home. This lead to confusing email exchanges with students since they did not know what they needed to complete and how it would affect their grades. This lead to many students being worn out from the workload and caused them a great deal of stress and anxiety.
Additionally, the triple lock system was a lot more unclear for BTEC students. This is because whilst mocks worked for A level and GCSE students, there would be no concept of mocks for BTEC students. Would that take into account the work we were by now was told would not count to our grades actually be used here? Did the system even count for BTEC students? A lot of this is still very unclear to a lot of students including me, and I couldn't find any easy responses whilst trying to do the research for this blog post. This caused a lot of anxiety for BTEC students since nobody knew if this was going to work.
At this point all we could do is sit and wait.
The day itself
I woke up at 6:30 am on the 13th August, personally getting 4 hours sleep due to the stress of the situation. At this point after I just waited anxiously, making sure to not open Twitter because I was so scared.
At 8am I constantly refreshed UCAS Track. On the one day UCAS Track was meant to work there was a large outage meaning that it took a while to sign in. This only added to the anxiety of students since this was the only way I and all other students could find out if they got into university before the results were e-mailed in the event that you were not going to the school to pick them up.
In the end the page did load and I got into university. However, the page loaded for so many other students with a different sight, a sight to say they didn't get into university. The issue here is that if your grades were e-mailed to you, you couldn't actually use clearing yet since even though UCAS knew your grades, you needed to know them yourself to give them to the university.
Even though I knew I got into university (being a very lucky person in this situation), I wanted to know what my grades were. One of my friends were in the college at the time and got their exam results on time, so they kindly offered to ask the college why we had not got our grades yet. The college responded that they were sent them late from the exam board (which I believe to be the truth since I am aware of someone else where this was the case), so I didn't get my results until 10am. Note that this could've genuinely caused me issues in going into clearing if I didn't get the results I need since there would've been a clearing rush due to how they treated other students.
I class myself as extremely lucky in this situation, a lot of students were heavily screwed over in the situation. For example, a friend of mine doing the first year of my course, even though getting a Distinction on every unit ended up getting a merit overall for the course which if left un-appealed (he's appealed and I'm confident that he will get this resolved), could potentially affect his future grades:
However, Twitter is heavily documented with cases of people dropping from A's to D's in A levels, and personally being in a Discord server full of A level students made me conflicted since even though I knew I worked hard and deserved the grade, I know many students got screwed over.
What made this worse is this triple lock system and the appeals process around it was unclear. If you feel your grades are unfair, you're meant to contact the school/college handing them out, but what they can do still seems to be very unclear. Additionally, Ofqual released advice saying if you appeal, it can affect the grade order of other students in the class. This is essentially trying to stop students from appealing by making them fear that it could affect other students in the class.
Overall, results day was a day where I was mixed with emotions. Whilst I got the results I need to get into university, seeing so many people get screwed over made me sad.
Lets pretend nothing went wrong!
Boris Johnson has said literally nothing about grades. If you go to his Twitter account, it is literally only discussing other foreign affairs. Whilst these might be important, the A level results day should have made some sort of an appearance on his Twitter account since that was a very important situation which we need some proper leadership on. Additionally, the education secretary made a tweet on results day completely ignoring any issues relating to the grading (the comments of the tweet say it all really):
I hope the government can reflect on this poor response, issue an apology and make some steps to at least slowly try and resolve the wrongs they have done.
In conclusion, seeing people I know were academically bright get screwed over is disgusting. I wish Curtis the best of luck with his legal action, and I hope the government rethinks their strategy. This shouldn't be about party politics, this should be about how peoples futures are on the line due to a computer algorithm.
To all the people who couldn't get into university due to the situation this year, I'm so sorry. It makes me so sad that people who I know are smart and should get into their first choice universities were unable to due to this situation. I hope that everything works out for you with Clearing.
For all the people that didn't get the grades they feel they should have got, you should definitely appeal. If you ignore Ofqual's emotional blackmail, they'll get enough appeals as to where they'll need to rethink how the system works.
For the people like me that got into university, congratulations! It was a tough year and you deserve the grades you got for the hard work you put in. However, we should not take this for granted since we could have been in the same situation.