Testing Times

Charlie Evans

In the past week, across the United Kingdom, we have seen students collect their A-Level results. In every corner of the United Kingdom, the results have descended into farce and individuals are suffering accordingly.

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon was forced to apologise for the downgrading of results and calls for the Scottish Education Minister to consider his position.

Yesterday the results were released for the rest of the United Kingdom. Due to the time between the release of the results the respective Governments have had time to reflect on the debacle in Scotland. As a result of the delay proposals, such things as a “Triple Lock” were announced just days before the results were released. Despite such action taken to minimise the damage and criticism, there is widespread dissatisfaction from parents and pupils. In England, record A* and A grades have been given out yet conversely, 36% of all grades awarded were lower than teacher predictions. In Wales for instance, 4500 pupils have received an exams upgrade but 45% of grades awarded lower than predictions. Whether grade inflation or deflation, the experience has been the same throughout Britain.

The popular liberal view that exam-based education is somehow holding young people back has been found wanting. Sure education needs to be broad and work for pupils of all talent and background- some, of course, do not thrive in exam environments- but when we remove objective testing criteria we are left in educational purgatory, with results being awarded in some form of a postcode lottery. Results should not be the sole arbiter of one’s future, but we have seen that without testing there is dissatisfaction all around. It is easy to forget that the results fiasco is not a victimless failure, behind the figures are young people who will have experienced crushing news causing plans and dreams to change.

This sorry episode has exposed the futility of closing our schools. With pupils out of education for many months and not sitting their exams, the parameters used to award grades were always going to produce inconsistencies. Leading the charge on this are the teaching unions who have attempted to block pupils having an education at every possible hurdle. They are as accountable for the events of the last seven days as politicians.

Children of all ages have been deprived of an education for the last few months. The results fiasco in the last few days is further proof of the damage that lockdown has caused the development of young people. 

Distance learning or education by Microsoft Teams does not hack it. Parents, many in full-time work have had to play teacher as well as mum and dad. Parents have been forced to take unpaid leave or book out their annual leave to do so. 

If the education of our young people is not seen to be a priority when the going gets tough, then what do we stand for as a nation and as a people?

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