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A Level results: Pupils from Fortismere, Alexandra Park and Woodhouse College among those at Westminster demo against downgrading

PUBLISHED: 14:04 17 August 2020 | UPDATED: 14:39 17 August 2020

Lydia Sheppard (third left) and Ailsa Robb (second right) among a group of Alexandra Park School pupils protesting against A Level marks being downgraded. Picture: Sam Volpe

Lydia Sheppard (third left) and Ailsa Robb (second right) among a group of Alexandra Park School pupils protesting against A Level marks being downgraded. Picture: Sam Volpe

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On Sunday afternoon aggrieved 18-year-olds from schools including Fortismere, Alexandra Park and Woodhouse College held a demonstration against the way many A Level results were downgraded by an algorithm.

A Level students sit outside the Department for Education protesting unfair downgrading of their marks. Picture: Sam VolpeA Level students sit outside the Department for Education protesting unfair downgrading of their marks. Picture: Sam Volpe

The demo, organised initially by pupils at Woodhouse College, saw hundred descend first on Parliament Square and then on the doorstep of the Department for Education (DfE)’s offices.

The Conservative government and the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson came in for heavy criticism, with teenagers chanting “get Gav gone”.

It is now being reported that the government may official u-turn and award all students their teacher-assessed grades.

READ MORE: North London A Level students plan sit-in Parliament Square protest over results

Roshi Northover, 18, from East Finchley took A Levels at Fortismere. She told the Ham&High: “I came out fine, but I’m here because I come from a white, middle-class area and a school that’s done well. Others have been so much more profoundly affected simply because of their postcodes.”

People take part in a protest outside the Department for Education, London, in response to the downgrading of A Levels Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA WirePeople take part in a protest outside the Department for Education, London, in response to the downgrading of A Levels Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Roshi, a Labour activist, aslo criticised the government’s inflexibility.

Beatrice Auty Luque, also 18, lives in Camden but did A Levels at Woodhouse College in Barnet. She was downgraded from A*AA to BBB but the University of Bristol still accepted her. Despite being half Spanish and speaking the language fluently, it was one of the subjects she saw downgraded. She said: “I was very lucky but my future should not have been determined by luck.

“Even though my grades are not a barrier to my future I had to go to the protest to support those who were not so lucky.”

Ailsa Robb and Lydia Sheppard, both A Level pupils at Alexandra Park School, also attended the protests – which saw hundreds of disgruntled teenagers march from Parliament Square to the DfE’s Great Smith Street base to demand answers.

Teenagers from Hornsey and Wood Green with MP Catherine West at a Parliament Square protest over the downgrading of A Level results. Picture: Sam VolpeTeenagers from Hornsey and Wood Green with MP Catherine West at a Parliament Square protest over the downgrading of A Level results. Picture: Sam Volpe

Ailsa said: “I can’t see how anybody thought this was a good idea. It’s so screwed up and so classist. There’s been so little transparency about how we were going to get our grades, and none at all about appeals.”

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Lydia added: “Almost every single person I know got downgraded. Obviously we will never know how we would have done, but it feels like more should have been done to make sure it was fair.”

Before the protests, Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West (Lab) told this newspaper: “It’s just so sad. So many young people are so upset and angry – their lives have been disrupted.

Eric Hsieh, 18, from Barnet was protesting against the downgrading of A Level results. Picture: Sam VolpeEric Hsieh, 18, from Barnet was protesting against the downgrading of A Level results. Picture: Sam Volpe

“I just can’t imagine that, next week after every single GCSE student in the country has been shafted too, the government will be able to avoid a u-turn.”

For Ted Mellow, one of two Woodhouse students who turned an off-hand comment into a large protest, it was important to tell the government that 18-year-olds were not simply going to accept the situation.

He said: “It started off pretty simply, me and a mate said ‘we’re not happy about this, can we try get a few people sitting outside parliament?’

“We want to show the government that we are not just going to take it, we want and deserve what we could have achieved.”

At the protest, students who had seen news of the demo on social media came from across the south-east of England to air the grievances at the system which saw a push to prevent grade inflation see thousands of young people given grades below those suggested by their teachers.

One north London activist, Rishi Chakroborty, 26, told this newspaper: “Eight years ago I got a decent set of A Level results.I was one of the lucky ones. What the protest is really about is how that however this was worked out, there’s clearly been an inequality in outcomes. It has hit people in state schools far harder than those in private schools, and it’s all come out of an ideological opposition to the idea of grade inflation.”

On Monday morning, Downing Street refused to rule out a shift to a Scottish-style system based on teachers’ predicted grades rather than an algorithm aimed at standardising results.

Mr Johnson has gone on holiday to Scotland this week despite the chaos over the A-level results but held talks with Mr Williamson and senior officials on Monday morning.

In an indication that the grades awarded last week may not be the final results, a Number 10 spokesman said “the Government continues to work hard to come up with the fairest system possible”.


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