Sutton Trust alum Chloé shares her experience of last week’s A Level Results Day, and the impact it has had on her and her friends’ futures.

I remember dreaming of my A Level results day. Gripping that all-important envelope in both hands, shaking. Too nervous to rip open the seal that I knew would decide my academic future.

I’d spent weeks in lockdown watching videos of previous years, standing outside their school, tearing apart their envelope before running into their friends’ arms, tears streaming down their face. I knew I wouldn’t be able do that.

My experience of A Level results day was different. This year, the world has been gripped by disaster after disaster: wildfires, explosions and now a global pandemic. People are struggling to keep up, especially those in the education system.

After coming out of my GCSEs with grades ranging from 6 to 9 (B-A*), I had high standards set for my A Level results. I had told myself, being the perfectionist that I am, that anything below a B simply was not good enough. So, I worked my hardest and, despite setbacks, came out of assessment after assessment hitting a strong B to A grade. I had started following my strict revision timetable after Christmas and was confident that I would come out of my exams with the grades I would need to get into university. Then came coronavirus…

With my college shut and online learning starting to get into full swing, some of us year 13s were wondering what the point was in learning and revising all of this content if there may not be any exams taking place. The attendance in classes swiftly dropped as students started to have less and less faith that exams would actually be happening this year. Sure enough, in late March an official announcement was made saying that all exams would be cancelled. I felt sick to my stomach with pure confusion and defeat. How would this all work? How could I get the grades I needed without sitting exams?

After finding out my grades were to be decided by my teachers and then analysed and contorted by a government algorithm, I have to say my faith in the system started to drop. Why were the grades my teachers were submitting having to be questioned by people who didn’t even know me? Why did a machine get the final say in my future? I, and the vast majority of other year 13s I knew, were confused. It was as though we were being experimented on and that our future was just one big game of Russian Roulette.

Results day finally arrived. I was grateful to be past the sleepless nights, awake with worry about whether my performance of the past two years had been enough to convince people I deserved to pass my A Levels. I sat at my laptop, desperately refreshing the UCAS track page at 8am to find out whether my place at the University of York had been accepted or declined. There was a lump in my throat as I saw an email pop up from my college: my results. I jumped into the attached file and scanned the page, trying to take in every detail. An A in drama and in my EPQ caused me to breathe a sigh of relief. I read on, seeing a B in Politics (which I had expected), then moved down the page to see a certain grade staring me dead in the face. A C in history. I was gutted. I tried to hide my disappointment as UCAS finally loaded and I realised that my place at the University of York had been confirmed.

As messages from friends and fellow students started flooding in, I realised just how lucky I was to receive the results I got. One particular friend of mine was predicted ABB in her exams and received BCC. Luckily, she managed to get into her insurance choice university, but her firm choice rejected her.

Upon receiving my mock grades and Centre Assessment Grades (CAGs), I realised that the government system had marked down my history grade. A computerised algorithm devised in the space of a few months had lowered me by an entire grade. In that moment, I decided that I would submit an application to appeal my mark and receive my mock grade instead, as per advice from my teachers. However, since the Government U-turn stating that all students will be receiving their CAGs, this won’t need to happen.

That brings me to today. I have to say, I’m still confused, as I’m sure are thousands of other students. Many are hurt and, in a way, grieving the loss of the university place that was stolen from them by a computer system. There has been a lot to process in the past week and things are still changing. All I can say is that I am grateful that I managed to get the grades I needed in order to get to university. Others, however, were not so lucky and if that applies to you reading this, then my heart goes out to you. Just remember that these grades do not define us nor our worth and we will come back stronger in the future, when we have the chance to physically prove ourselves and what we can do.

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