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MLMS' Young Leader Romilly Swingler discusses A-level results day

By Romilly Swingler

(Picture by Andrew Teebay/Liverpool Echo)

Results day. Two words that will send shock waves down any student. This year, it’s fair to say there was a lot more anxiety surrounding it than in previous years.

Last Thursday at 8am, thousands of students across England opened their results for A-level exams they didn’t sit. It was always going to be a weird situation. But unluckily for me, I was one of those who was downgraded.

After hearing about Scotland’s exam results last week, there was already a strong feeling of dread, but I don’t think anyone was prepared for the absolute disaster that happened. Like every other student in the country, I nervously awaited my results, constantly refreshing my emails and praying that they were what I needed to get into university.

Finally at around 8:15am, I got onto UCAS Track and was elated to find out I’d got into my first choice university. “I must have got the grades,” I thought, “the system’s worked!”

But I was very wrong. I opened my emails to find out my grades had dropped enormously. I’d gone from being predicted straight A’s to BBC - It felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I assumed I was the only one who was downgraded like this and didn’t want anyone to know my results. I just wanted to delete the email and pretend it had never happened. All the hard work over the past two years had been for nothing, I might as well have not turned up for half the lessons.

However I had to rationalise it with myself; these exam results wouldn’t define me as a person and I certainly wouldn’t let them stop me from achieving my goals in life. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience.

After about an hour when I’d eventually stopped crying, I decided to go on social media to find out how my friends had done, expecting them to have received the high grades they’d been predicted by teachers. I opened the group chat to find videos of my friends and their families sobbing - all of them were downgraded… just like me. 90% of them received at least one grade D.

I was in shock, how could it have all gone so wrong?

I think it’s important to say: I went to a state school sixth form in one of the most deprived towns in the country, which had a significant impact on the downgrading of me and my friends.

The more I heard about the situation, the more it became clear that it was a postcode lottery, with wealthier students taking home the jackpot. Of course, it’s unfair to say all privately educated students had benefited from the system; I have private school friends who were downgraded. However on the whole, it was definitely state school students that had taken the biggest blow, making this no longer about students being disappointed but a socio-economic issue.

One of the factors that made the situation even worse was not being able to go into sixth form due to Covid-19, meaning there was little support available for thousands of upset students. As someone who commented on one of my Tiktok videos said: “It felt as if the world had ended.”

With everything that has happened on results day, there’s no doubt young people's mental health will have been negatively impacted. It may only be a matter of time until someone reaches breaking point. On top of that is the issue of appealing grades. It’s still a total mystery as to whether we will get the grades we deserved or if we have to accept that for the rest of our lives, we’ll have to tell employers the lower grades we received simply because of where we live.

As I’m writing this, many of my friends still have no university place and have no idea whether they will be able to go this year. What does the Government expect when they give students U’s for exams that they never had the opportunity to take?

An even sadder part of the situation is that this narrative isn’t over yet. Next week students will receive their GCSE results and it is highly likely that what has happened to A-level students will happen to them, with the added issue that they are younger and potentially more vulnerable - not to mention the anxiety they must be feeling after watching the A-level situation play out.

I hope the Government stops to realise that we are not just numbers on a screen but real people with futures that have been put in jeopardy. The American journalist Sydney J. Harris once said: “ The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” The Government seems to have turned those mirrors into locked doors instead.

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