Results Day has a time-worn rhythm, full of annual tropes: local newspaper pictures of envelope-clutching girls jumping in the air in threes and fours, columnists complaining that exams have gotten far too easy, and the same five or six celebrities posting worthy Twitter threads about why exam results don’t matter because everything worked out alright for them.
But this year, it’s very different. The coronavirus pandemic means exams were canceled and replaced with teacher assessments and algorithms. It has created chaos.
In Scotland, the government was forced to completely change tack after tens of thousands of students were downgraded by an algorithm that changed grades based on a school’s previous performance and other factors. Anticipating similar scenes for today’s A-level results, the government in England has introduced what it’s calling a ‘triple lock’—whereby, via stages of appeals, students will effectively get to choose their grade from a teacher assessment, their mock exam results, or a resit to be taken in the autumn.
While that should help reduce some injustices, the results day mess could still have a disproportionate effect on students from disadvantaged backgrounds, with knock-on effects on their university applications and careers. The mess shines a light on huge, long-term flaws in the assessment, exams, and university admissions systems that systematically disadvantage pupils from certain groups.