Today has been an A level results day like no other as pupils at schools across Manchester have found out the grades they have been awarded through the national desktop exercise that was put in place instead of examinations this year.
Schools are reporting large numbers of exam marks being downgraded from the predictions provided by them to examination boards.
At Parrs Wood High School in Didsbury, south Manchester, 56% of exam grades are lower than the centre assessed grades provided by teachers at the school to exam boards. The number of exams awarded at grades A*-C is also well down at only 59% this year, following last year’s figure of 74% – a figure which this year the school had forecast, pre-lockdown, would be even higher.
Mark McElwee, Headteacher at Parrs Wood High School, Didsbury, said: “It’s hard to know what to say. Although we’ve certainly had some students who have done really well and have been rightly awarded the marks they deserve to get them into some top universities, this is far from the picture across the whole year group. I’ve got students who have literally worked their socks off during their time in school – from their GCSEs through to their A levels this year – and they are not getting the grades that we as teachers know they were capable of.
“Despite the hours spent by my staff wrangling over the grades they thought should be awarded to each young person to make sure this was an honest and accurate reflection of the student’s past achievement as well as their potential, nearly half of the grades we spent hours of deliberation on have been disregarded.
“It feels as if the mechanism used to determine results is a very blunt one that just doesn’t take into account the two years’ worth of work and more put in by students and staff, and the journey they have been on during this time.
“We’re now doing everything we possibly can to make sure every student has the support they need to help them move forwards. As a school we’re also looking urgently at all the avenues open to us for challenging and appealing results on behalf of individual students to make sure they get the grades they deserve and that better reflect what we as teachers know they are capable of.”
Councillor Garry Bridges, Executive Member for Children and Schools, Manchester City Council, said: “Levels of dissatisfaction and disbelief with both the mechanism used and the final grades awarded are running high in Manchester today.
“To every young person who has got the grades they needed to move on to the next level,congratulations and well done – you deserve the results you have been given.
“To every young person who has not been given the grades they needed today to move on to the next level – you did not deserve this. It’s vital that you talk to your schools and your teachers to get the help and support you need to get you through this – they believe in you and want you to succeed.
“When I see even good schools where nearly half their predicted exam marks have been downgraded, it’s very clear to me that the promises made to pupils that none of them would be disadvantaged by the results they are given do not appear to have been kept.
“There is nothing right about a system that appears to judge a young person not by their own merit and hard work, but on their background and the school they attend.
“The idea suddenly too that mock exams are sufficient protection for students and could see their awarded grade replaced by a higher grade is ludicrous and does not take into account the fact that different schools use mock exams very differently. Tests given at varying times and under varying conditions, which were meant to be ways to measure progress and highlight areas for students and staff to focus on in the months leading up to the exams themselves, have now retrospectively become the only way for a student to prove they deserve a higher grade than the one allocated to them by a flawed system. This cannot be right.
“We”ll be working closely with our schools over the coming weeks to do everything we possibly can to make sure that all necessary measures are taken to ensure that every young person in Manchester gets the results they deserve and is able to move forwards with confidence in their lives.
“It isn’t too late to remedy all this. It’s obvious that this patently unfair system needs to be abandoned and students given grades that are much more closely aligned with their teachers’ assessments, as well as the ability to appeal their results easily, and we shall be raising this at the very highest level as a matter of urgency.”