If you’re a student I’ve been thinking about you a great deal today. Some of you will have got the grades you need or have unconditional offers at uni – if that’s the case I’m really pleased for you. My advice to you going forward is to take each day as it comes, stay focused, and give everything 100%.
But there’s a lot of heartache out there too, more than most years.
In the absence of schools and exams, government have discerned success by formulating an ‘algorithm’ based on passed performance, the school, and the recommendation of teachers. The impact has, in too many cases, been perverse and disproportionately impactful to minority groups and disadvantaged students.
This is a government that bangs on about ‘levelling up’ all the time, but ‘levels down’ whenever their performance is put under the microscope.
Many students succeed today, but it’s noteworthy to see where Boris Johnson’s algorithm delivered the most success: private schools saw an increase in ‘A’ and ‘A*’ grades of 4.7%, but sixth form colleges just 0.3%.
One of our local schools had 66% of their teacher recommendations downgraded, over 30% of recommendations were downgraded by two or more grades.
Another local school saw the number ‘U’ grades triple compared to last year (or indeed any recent year), and even had a student downgraded from the ‘C’ they got in mocks to a ‘U’.
Add this all up and what do we get? Students from more wealthy backgrounds are having their grades inflated, whilst students from poorer backgrounds who struggle to fulfil their potential at school are having their grades suppressed.
This isn’t ‘levelling up’, this is stitching it up.
Some students already having trouble accessing the support they need have had the rug pulled from beneath them and it breaks my heart.
It’s well known that I struggled at school, left without any usable qualifications and returned to secondary school aged 25 to have a second chance. Most young people would never put themselves through what I did, understandably. But they shouldn’t have to because the system should work for them not against. This is the very thing that got me into politics in the first place and motivates me so much now.
If you’re a student affected by all this I have a little advice, for what it’s worth. I can’t stress this strongly enough and I can sum it up with one word: persist. PERSIST!!!
If your grades didn’t match expectations, don’t let your shoulders slump and disappear off to your bedroom or out with friends and forget about it. Speak to your teachers, find our what they recommended. Appeal. Speak to the place you were hoping to head to next, or UCAS, and get them to hold your place until this is sorted.
If you have to resit, then don’t waste time being angry, do it and do what it takes to smash the exams.
There are so many people who care about you, who want to help you: use all the help you can get. But this is important – people only know you need help if you tell them, they can’t guess! So even if you’re not a good communicator or find this stuff embarrassing, do what it takes, find the person you’re most able to talk to and start the process of moving forward.
I know it’s hard, but I changed the direction of my life the moment I stopped hoping opportunities would be presented to me and started building them myself. So please, don’t give up. Persist!
And finally, if you are one of those students who’ve just been done-over by a rotten system and you’re trying your best to move forward but things still aren’t working out or people aren’t answering your calls: don’t forget that I’m here for you too. If you think I can help you and you live in Hove, Portslade or Hangleton, write to me on Peter.Kyle.MP@parliament.uk and I promise I’ll bust a gut to help you. But it’s you I want to hear from, not mum and dad writing for you while you go off to the beach with your mates!
I care about what’s happening and I hate it. Coronavirus has turned life upside down and it’s affecting most the people who can cope the least and that’s nothing to do with the virus, it’s the choices made by the people who run our country.