York Press column – Exam Issues and Local Investment
August 28, 2020
Results day can be a stressful experience for both students and parents at the best of times. In the case of A-level results, a lot can rest on getting the grades required to satisfy university offers. I regret to say that this year that experience was not made any easier by the shambolic way that the Government and Ofqual handled the process.
I understand that the Government faced a difficult decision this year as to how we accurately assess a student’s performance given that summer exams were unable to take place. It initially looked like they would trust the predictions issued by schools, but when it became clear that it would result in grades being 12% higher than last year, the regulator decided to create a statistical model to standardise results and bring them into line with the past performance of schools. Whilst this may have made sense from a grade inflation perspective, it became apparent when the Scottish Government issued their results that the system could be grossly unfair on the individual level.
My main criticism of the Government over this is that they had a warning sign from the Scottish Government’s U-turn, yet still they persisted until four days after A-level results had been released. By that point, thousands of students had lost out on their first choice of university and damage had already been done. My email inbox was full of letters from concerned parents, bemused as to why their son or daughter had received results that were two or even three grades lower than what they had been predicted. They had been advised by the school to appeal, but their first choice university were not willing to hold the place in the meantime. It was frustrating to see something so easily avoidable having such a detrimental impact on the futures of young people. As I said in an interview with BBC Radio York, my fear is that the Government set out with the wrong priority, showing greater concern for grade inflation rather than recognising that this is an extraordinary year, and as such we should give students the grades that they deserve and let them move on with their lives as planned.
I am glad that the Government finally saw sense last week before further damage was done on GCSE results day. I hope that universities can use the lifting of the admissions cap to show flexibility in honouring offers that have now been met with the revised A-level results. Accommodating more students at a time of social distancing will require further flexibility and to make up for its mistakes, the Government needs to step forward to provide the necessary support to our universities.
The Government remain committed to investing in education with the recent rise in per-pupil funding I mentioned in my last column and the funding boost to higher education colleges which delivers £987k and £845k for York College and Askham Bryan College respectively from the £200 million further education capital allocation announced by the Prime Minister in June.
York has also benefited from £936,000 of targeted funding for York Hospital NHS Trust’s A and E services ahead of the greater strain of the winter months.
This is York’s share of a £300 million nationwide investment by the government to boost A and E capacity in good time for the cold weather, when the hospitals will have to face both the standard winter spike in admissions, and the lurking threat of a coronavirus upsurge. The investment will help pay for improved urgent care and emergency treatment services, and the introduction of enhanced infection prevention and control measures.
The targeted funding is in addition to £3 billion already put in place to prepare the NHS for the winter, also helping keep the pop-up Nightingale coronavirus hospitals on standby through to March.
Ahead of the season beginning for our Minster Men, I am delighted to support the Let Fans In campaign to allow football fans to attend matches to provide a vital source of revenue for non-league football clubs, such as York City FC. As we await their move to the LNER Community Stadium in Huntington, it is crucial we offer our local team as much support as we can.