Coming off the back of reading the latest BBC article about Scottish results day, I am feeling a slew of emotions; rage, confusion, fear and concern. This article is coming before my own results day which is beginning to feel more like judgement day, in the sense that my future will be decided by what some strangers deem fitting for me.
As we all know, COVID-19 struck us at such an unprecedented time that caused all summer examinations to be cancelled, which was to the joy of some but also the immense distress of others, as our futures suddenly became shrouded in uncertainty and our fate fell into the hands of a man who is doing such a wonderful job with BREXIT.
I am enraged as, once again, it appears the government is doing things to cover their own backs and hiding under the guise of providing “fairness to all learners”, when they are really only concerned with maintaining their curve. In the article I read, it was revealed that “the Higher pass rate for pupils from the most deprived backgrounds was reduced by 15.2 percentage points, compared to only 6.9 percentage points for the wealthiest pupils.” This harrowing statistic shows grades are moderated on a rigid criteria that factors in geographical location. Meaning, the children of politicians and upper working class parents are in better stead to receive the grades they were estimated, than those of us from poorer backgrounds. Sociologically speaking, ethnic minority pupils are more likely to be from less affluent areas, whilst white pupils are more likely to live in affluent areas. Now, I hate to be the one that brings race into everything, however, as an educated 18 year old Black African male, when looking at the statistics it is almost impossible to not pose the question; is the system institutionally racist?
I remember watching Boris Johnson’s live exam announcement like it was yesterday, “…this does mean exams will not take place as planned in May and June, though we will make sure pupils get the qualifications they need and deserve for their academic career.” Hearing this I was amongst those students who were immensely elated to hear I managed to escape the cold suffocating grasp A Levels had around my neck. However, I would be lying if I said a certain degree of uncertainty didn’t settle into the back of mind: Where do we go from here? Is university still an option? Will I have to repeat year 13? Did I do enough in school? Will my teachers purposefully fail me? All these thoughts flooded my conscience with so much anxiety and fear that I decided the only way I could cope was to simply not think about it – ‘Out of sight, out of mind’.
As much as people are saying “results day doesn’t define you…grades aren’t everything”, when reading articles that contain such disturbing figures on grade moderation e.g. “124,564 were adjusted down”, It is hard to remain optimistic when you’re basically being told the odds are against you before you’ve even had the chance to do a single thing. In his speech, deputy first minister John Swinney said “where grades were moderated, the vast majority of these estimates, over 93%, were changed by only one grade” as if this offers any consolation. To someone who is awaiting their own results, this statistic offers little to no comfort at all as one grade can be the difference to passing or failing. It’s that simple.
On Twitter, students are pointing to a classist mark scheme that has created a class divide in results as thousands claim, “i’m from a deprived area and all the richer people in my school got full A’s”. I am personally at a loss for words as to how society can be so regressive and take us back to a system that sees class first, but it can be argued that the system never changed, it was merely operating in the shadows. Picture this, you are the first born of 5 and are about to sit your exams. Everyone in your family is looking at you to get good grades, do what your parents could not and they are counting on you as their ticket to a better life. With all this pressure on your back, you open your results on the dreaded day and see you got ‘awarded’ 3 C’s and a D. This may seem like a long winded scenario but ladies and gents, this is the reality for so many young men and women that come from deprived areas.
I know it is important to ‘stay positive’ and ‘it’s not the end of the world’, of which it’s not, but the reality is everyone is on edge, as you can expect when standing on uneven ground.