By Teddy Coward, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Hundreds of students are set to demonstrate on Bristol’s College Green on Friday, against their frustrations over the release of last week’s A-Level results.
As students were unable to physically sit their exams this year due to the coronavirus, the government chose to use an Ofqual algorithm to produce the results, which saw a total 40% of teachers’ estimates downgraded by at least one grade.
The move has left many students unable to obtain a place at their preferred University.
Friday’s protest, which will take place from 1pm on College Green, has been co-organised by 17 year-olds Rhianna Prewett and Dilan Kaygisiz along with the Bristol & North Somerset National Education Union.
Dilan, 18, who attended Bristol Cathedral Choir School, told Epigram that many students have ‘been really disappointed with the way the government have conducted this’ with many student’s ‘dreams and plans for University having been shattered’.
‘They’ve disappointed everybody by lowering nearly 40% of the grades,’ she added, ‘that’s about 280,000 people. So that’s a lot of individuals. That’s every single student who’s had dreams and hopes of becoming a doctor or engineer or artist or anything else one day.
Explaining her motivations for co-organising the event, she said: ‘What we want to do with the protests is tell the government that it’s not okay to just disappoint people like that.
‘I believe it was right to cancel the exams, but in the aftermath there’s been hardly any guidance for students, everyone’s left puzzled – I don’t think that’s okay at all.
‘What we want to do is make sure they’re transparent about the algorithm they’ve used and the factors they’ve included inside of it, as well as making sure the students can transition smoothly into University or whatever their plans are next.
‘It’s a really nervous, anxious moment for students. Exams and A-Levels are tough on students already so that added on with Coronavirus and being socially-distant makes it tougher and the government should be making it easier.’
Thousands of students’ A Level results yesterday were affected by a disproportionate and unjust system.— Bristol SU (@Bristol_SU) August 14, 2020
We support the NUS petition to the government to right this wrong.
You can view the officer's full statement here and sign the NUS petition >> https://t.co/kzFj7QGHCD pic.twitter.com/06zC2u8SaK
Among the demand for Friday’s demonstration is for teacher assessed grades to be used instead of the results allocated by the algorithm.
Dilan said they will also be calling for all autumn and summer exams to be made free of charge, saying ‘it’s completely baffling to me how this year we would have had free exams, as our educational right, and now we’ll have to end up paying to go into an exam’.
Wearing a face mask has been made mandatory for Friday’s event, and attendees have been asked to socially-distance.
In response to the fallout from this year’s results, the National Union of Students (NUS) has called on all students to be given their teacher assessed grades – a demand Bristol University’s Student’s Union have supported.
In a statement expressing its support for the decision, Bristol’s SU said the A-Level results many received this year ‘were not influenced by skill, hard work, or tenacity: rather an algorithm designed to estimate what students would receive, despite their teachers’ informed estimates of their potential often being several grades higher.
‘Countless students have been stripped the opportunity [sic] to reach their potential due to a faceless algorithm designed to see them as numbers and statistics, rather than determined, dynamic, and deserving students.
‘Many students’ results were affected by a disproportionate and unjust system, and that is not fair.’
Following the outrage from students, parents and politicians over the cost of appeals, the government were forced to concede covering the costs of all appeals for downgraded results.
Friday’s demonstrations will follow protests that took place in Westminster yesterday, Sunday 16 August, where hundreds of students protested outside the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s departmental building.
Featured: Bristol Protest for Educational Justice (co-host: Bristol NEU)
Will you be attending Friday’s demonstration in Bristol? (Wear a face mask if so).