'The government has failed my generation' - a letter from an A-level student

I am writing to you as well as the minister for education, from whom I believe I won’t have a response and what I will have to say will make no impact from a government who have failed my generation so miserably in regards to education this year.

Thursday, 20th August 2020, 1:26 pm
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson

For those of us not fortunate enough to attend a fee-paying school, we can only use our words to plead with schools and teachers for more help and more online lessons. And, quite frankly, words aren’t as powerful as money when it comes to bargaining chips.

Having received more than enough set work throughout lockdown, I felt it at the beginning difficult, but I managed my best to hand everything in on time with no help.

But it became extremely overwhelming, as I didn’t have other pupils, as well as teachers to talk work through with face to face and only an email system to turn to with teachers who often never replied.

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With a few weeks left of term, my school discovered the online lessons, but they were sporadic and only used by tech-savvy teachers and therefore the concept provided very little help for certain teachers and the classes they taught.

They say A-levels are a huge step up from GCSEs, so teaching myself A-level topics from home came as near impossible.

I and the majority of my peers felt overwhelmed and struggled to stay motivated to work every day, so as well as all the work we needed to get finished, we had to adjust to the change in our learning environments, the frustration of technology and having no structure to our weeks.

It’s no wonder we’re seeing the dramatic increase of those struggling with depression and anxiety among other things after this period of lockdown.

After speaking to peers from other schools, I learnt those in the private sector had been having timetabled weeks and have not had to struggle through teaching themselves.

It must have seemed like nothing had changed for them apart from travelling to and from school, they had lessons every day, every week throughout lockdown – my cousin even had to wear his shirt to online lessons, so he looked presentable and ready to work.

So how can someone with no computer or Wi-Fi, or whose school has set them no work, take the same exam as someone whose learning hasn’t changed throughout the lockdown?

In this modern age of technology it is presumed everyone ‘is connected’, but this simply isn’t the case and students shouldn’t be penalised for this because they come from a different socio-economic background to another pupil.

This issue was certainly raised with the algorithm produced for the A-level results which took into account the previous results of certain schools which usually worked against those perhaps from poorer areas, or whose school in general didn’t perform as well, which is just the most absurd way to grade a student taking A-levels, as it only works in favour again for those fortunate enough to attend fee-paying schools.

As well as this, with teachers paid so little, why would they work to give us online lessons all the time, when the easier way to do it is to set and mark work?

Those in the private sector are paid more and parents can ask for funds to be reimbursed so they have the incentive that they have to provide all they can.

Teachers were only promised a pay rise on July 21, which is right at the end of term and therefore they no longer have work or lessons to provide us with.

I am hoping with this letter will point out the inequality in the education system and make sure it is realised that next year we are not all in the same playing field and something must be done to rectify this, as I don’t want my place and the places of other pupils like myself and those who are in far worse a position to have no chance for our A-levels next year and the idea of university being an impossible task, especially when the competition is greater with more students deferring a year.

Kassy Peat

Year 12 student, Sheffield