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NUS and UCU joint statement of solidarity with students after results fiasco

13 August 2020

Students have spent much of this year working incredibly hard in unprecedented circumstances. School closures have particularly impacted the least affluent, who are less likely to have access to the resources needed to study at home.

UCU and NUS send their full solidarity to students who have had their grades downgraded and risk missing out on educational opportunities, and call on universities and colleges to be flexible with admissions whilst we wait for the government to fix this mess.

Instead of creating a assessment system that recognised the difficult circumstances students have faced, the government built an algorithm which used schools' past performance to downgrade almost four out of ten results, with students from the least affluent backgrounds the worst affected. The number of grades at A and above rose by almost 5% at private schools compared to last year, whereas students at state sixth form and further education colleges saw a rise of just 0.3%.  This has entrenched educational inequality and will disproportionately impact students of colour resulting in thousands of students having life chances pulled away from them.

It seemed impossible to make this situation worse, but Gavin Williamson's confused "triple lock" idea of bringing some mock exams into the equation has only brought more confusion and chaos. He is also mooting different starts to courses for students appealing their results, but this would mean staff would have to run everything twice. University and college staff are having to work round the clock to try to clear up the government's mess and should not be punished again because of the government's shambles.  The decision for a late start needed to be made months ago not weeks before the start of term.

The chaos unleashed by Westminster on the education sector has caused a crisis in colleges and universities. UCU has launched 'Fund the Future' to urge Westminster to fund the sector properly and asked its members sign up to 10 pledges to support staff on insecure and fixed-term contracts who are facing an uncertain future.

Westminster now needs to accept that it has got this badly wrong, give students their teacher predicted grade and introduce a fair and free appeals process for all students. This will go some way to levelling the playing field and finally putting students first.

NUS has launched a petition in response to the results demanding the Westminster government:

  • Give all students their teacher assessed grades - with no moderation
  • Introduce a fair and free appeals process for all students to combat any instances of racist, classist or other discrimination
  • Commit to an overhaul of our current system of exams and grading
  • Invest in our education system to end educational inequality.
Last updated: 17 August 2020