Victory for students but fight goes on

18 August 2020

By KD Tait

Student protests across dozens of cities have forced the government into a humiliating u-turn after its algorithm downgraded hundreds of thousands of A-Level results.

The stress that students have been put through was completely avoidable if the Tories had not arrogantly refused to learn from the debacle in Scotland, where the SNP government was forced into an identical u-turn, again after student protests.  

The decision to allow teachers’ predicted grades to stand for A-Level and GCSE results is a step forward but it doesn’t go far enough. Algorithm results that were higher than predicted will be allowed to stand, which means that private school students who received massively inflated grades retain their unfair advantage due to the ‘baked in’ discrimination which assumes privately educated students would always achieve higher grades.

Crucially, the u-turn leaves universities and students in limbo regarding the validity of university offers and rejections. Many BTEC students still have not received their results. These students tend to be disproportionately from working class backgrounds and are potentially missing out on placements, offers, and clearances.

Instead of providing support for students whose education has suffered and the universities and FE colleges facing financial ruin, Boris Johnson and Education minister Gavin Williamson wasted time trying to force teachers to reopen schools at the height of the pandemic.

Now they are trying to avoid responsibility by pinning the blame on exam regulator Ofqual. Johnson won’t sack key ally Williamson because he needs him to bully teachers and parents into forcing pupils back to school in September. Their behaviour should leave no one in any doubt about the contempt in which ordinary people are held by this government.

The climbdown is the tenth about-face conducted by Boris Johnson’s incompetent government since the beginning of the pandemic and shows that if we organise we can beat them on the critical struggles to come – nurses’ pay, unemployment, and the reopening of schools this autumn.

More widely, the grading fiasco has magnified the class, race and gender inequalities that have always existed in education. These inequalities have been deepened by successive Labour and Tory government’s removing education and the curriculum from democratic control and handing it to profit making academy trusts and free schools.

Students should maintain their organisation and prepare to fight in the autumn against any attempt to re-open schools without stringent health measures supervised and implemented by elected committees of students, and education workers.

This can be the starting point of a real fight to reclaim democratic control of the curriculum, and take all schools into public ownership with no compensation for profiteering academy bosses and fake charities, as part of a national education service under students’ and workers’ control.


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