I set up the #TFOF (Tories f*cked our future) campaign because of the plethora of A Level, BTEC and GCSE students that messaged, emailed and called me in the aftermath of the algorithm grades handed out to A-Level students. I have mentored a lot of students through their studies and felt utterly outraged at the appalling outcomes that students faced; especially those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and black and minority students who are disproportionately working class.
What Boris Johnson now calls a ‘mutant algorithm’ was already said to run the risk of putting pupils in a position where they could be “systematically disadvantaged by calculated grades” according to the education select committee in July. As a young adult who is currently finishing university, I knew that should this have been the year I took my A-levels, I would not have been awarded the grades I achieved in 2017 when I sat my exams, because of the way the algorithm works.
I consulted some students of mine and came up with the #TFOF campaign. It centres around three demands that have now somewhat been met by the government U-turn, in which the government agreed to give students the grades they had been predicted by their teachers. But we are currently working on tackling the unresolved issue of external candidates and resit students and trying to put pressure on Gavin Williamson (education secretary) to resign for this catastrophe.
Our three demands are the following:
- The resignation of Gavin Williamson MP from his position as Education Secretary
- The guarantee of a free appeals process for A-level, BTEC and GCSE students (and for BTEC students to be awarded ‘teacher assessed grades instead of algorithm-based grades)
- Any ‘exam sitting’, post-teacher assessed grades, to be deemed as the first sitting of exams and not as a ‘re-sit’.
Our government constantly scapegoats issues and puts out mixed messages which only adds to the confusion and frustration students feel during this hectic time. Sammy Collier has recently resigned over what has been dubbed the ‘exams fiasco’ but whilst the resignation of Ofqual’s Chief regulator is a win for students, the education secretary needs to do the same.
He was repeatedly told that the algorithm would be problematic and continues to act as though he had no part to play for the results crisis . With regards to the guarantee of a free appeals process, this demand seeks to get some outright clarity for students. Currently, students have to liaise with their schools and teachers to put their exam results up for appeal.
Whilst the majority of teachers do intend to fairly represent their student’s work, racial and teacher bias are also things teachers are liable for. We know of multiple reports that state that BAME students are predicted to underachieve by their teachers more than their white counterparts. The effects of institutionalised racism have not been addressed in this government U-turn and no safety nets have been put in place, as requests for appeals could be rejected by teachers/schools seeing as students can’t appeal their grades as individuals.
Lastly, we demand that the government clarifies their position on October exam sittings. Many students are still unsure whether these sittings would be deemed as a ‘first sitting’ or classified as a ‘re-sit’. Students deserve clarity.
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The #TFOF campaign also more broadly encompasses the failures and realities of living under a decade of Tory rule. It seeks to let young people know that our government has acted in ways that can only be described as ‘anti-youth’. Increasing university tuition fees, scrapping the ‘Education Maintenance Allowance’ (EMA), NHS cuts that have resulted in “less than 1 in 3 children and young people with a diagnosable mental health condition… access to NHS care and treatment”, the plan to scrap Oyster Zip Cards for 11-17 year olds this October, the spending cuts on youth services by 70% and the £7 billion slashing of school funding since 2011 are only surface level examples of how damaging a decade of austerity has been for our young people.
Young people deserve better.
We can and should hold our government to account when they fail us or persistently act as if we are a policy afterthought. We are calling for young people to make sure:
- that they are registered to vote
- for young people to keep up the pressure on our government to fully meet our demands and
- to have solidarity with students that are still affected despite the U-turn.
#TFOF is currently trying to work with other organisations like ‘FckBoris’ and ‘results2020’ to seek to make sure deferred entries for university students are guaranteed if universities have the capacity to do so, and that finances are available for students who have been cornered into this pathway because of this unprecedented government failure.
From the housing crisis to spending cuts, institutionalised racism to Brexit and our climate crisis, Tories f*cked our future. But young people can change it.
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