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How the A-level results ‘shambles’ left our university dreams shattered

Covid year pupils say they have been let down as they scramble for places through clearing

21 August, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Natalie Mazrani during her open day at Royal Holloway

STUDENTS have spoken of their heartbreak as their hopes of following dream careers and university courses were left in tatters by the A-level results fiasco.

City of London Academy Highbury Grove pupils Natalie Mazrani, Done-Nur Gul and Ayla Yetkin were all devastated when their results were revealed last week, as none of them had been given the grades needed to clinch their university offers.

Ms Mazrani, 18, was offered a place to study neuroscience at Warwick University as long as she achieved three Bs. But she missed out when the government’s grading system – which com­bined Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs) from the pupil’s teachers with the historic results the school had obtained – deter­mined that Ms Mazrani would receive three Cs.

She then faced a frantic scramble to get a place at a university through the “clearing system”.

In that time the government came under intense pressure from students, unions, teachers and MPs who criticised the system for hindering students on the basis of past performance of pupils at their school.

A humiliating U-turn followed during a chaotic sequence of events as under-fire education secretary Gavin William­son announced teachers’ predicted grades would be accepted after all.

Ms Mazrani said: “The one word we are all using to describe this is ‘shambles’. The whole process has been unfair.

“It’s been the most emotionally draining few days of my life.”

Ms Mazrani believes her predicted grades, which also do not meet the requirements to get into Warwick, were based on the mock exams she took in February. She said she had been ill with pneumonia at the time – now suspected as possible Covid-19 – and is among students who think likely improvement from mocks should have been included in the forecast.

Ms Mazrani is now going to Royal Holloway to study biology.

Meanwhile, Ms Gul, 18, had been offered a place at the University of Leeds to study dentistry as long as she achieved ABB in her grades. On Thursday she received DEE.

She said: “I am in a situation where I don’t know what is going on. It’s all a blur and I don’t know what to do.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson

“I have been calling random universities to see if I can do a foundation course. This means I will have to pay for another year of uni which I know I don’t need. How is that fair?”

She added: “On results day I had three phones out calling unis but it is so hard to convince them that you are worth more than what is said on the grades.”

Ms Yetkin, 18, had received an offer to do medicine at the University of Lancaster if she obtained an ABB score. On results day, however, she received DCB.

She is now having to look at a different route into medicine by getting a biomedical under­graduate first before moving on to medicine.

She said: “None of us expected this. We were so positive at the start I thought I was going to be predicted ABB, now I feel like a fool. Those grades will be on my record forever now.”

All the students believe they have also suffered because of their predicted grades in chemistry.

The Department for Education did not respond to requests for comment on the students’ experience.

Mr Williamson, who has resisted calls for his resignation, said this week that a “record number” of A-level students had secured places at their “first choice” university.

“I have said repeatedly that my absolute priority is fairness for students and I do not want anything holding them back from achieving the grades they deserve,” he added.

Join our protest, urges union

A NEW protest against the government’s handling of exam results has been called by the Islington branch of the National Education Union (NEU).

Furious students marched on Downing Street last Friday after learning that a computer algorithm had been used in the downgrading of their final A-level results.

But Westminster will see a further demonstration later today (Friday).

Ken Muller, a spokesman for the Islington branch of the NEU, the largest teaching union, has called for both pupils and teachers to take to the streets to send a message to the government.

He said the government’s U-turn on how pupils would be graded had been “too little too late”.

He said: “Too little because it fails to treat B-Tech students equally and continues to trash the hopes and aspirations of many of them.

“And too late because many of the 40 per cent of students who had their grades unfairly reduced by [Gavin] Williamson’s algorithm still have no guarantees that they will get back on to the university courses they had previously been offered.”

A last-minute decision on Wednesday evening by the exam regulator Ofqual meant that revised BTEC results, an alternative to A-levels, were not given out.

The demonstration is due to head to Downing Street for noon.

Mr Muller added schools could not have trust in Mr Williamson to make the right call on schools reopening.

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