Monday, 17 August 2020

Tories make Humiliating U-turn on Post Code Algorithm

 

All A-levels, AS levels and GCSEs in England are to be awarded based on teachers' predictions, rather than the controversial "post code algorithm". This algorithm had lowered the A-levels of 39.1% of students (who could not sit exams due to Covid) by as many as three grades. 

Most, if not all, of those affected appeared to be working class, with those from private schools seeing a 5% increase in their grades. This led to accusations of social cleansing - working class kids predicted straight A's had university offers rejected because an algorithm disapproved of their post code. Concern was growing that GCSE students were about to suffer the same unfairness.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously called the algorithm "robust" and education secretary Gavin Williamson said if results weren't standardised it: “would devalue the results for the class of 2020. But worse than that, it would mean that students this year would lose out twice over, both in their education and their future prospects.”

In other words, Williamson was suggesting the post code algorithm was helping students, despite its clear absurdities. It had for example downgraded a Spanish student, despite Spanish being his native tongue - the machine simply decided he was not fluent in Spanish because of his post code. It really seems like the algorithm was designed to keep the working class out of university - and if the process wasn't that cynical, it was staggeringly ill-conceived.

There have been widespread calls for Williamson to resign, but given the Prime Minister has not resigned, despite overseeing 80,000 excess Covid deaths, I'm not expecting a resignation any time soon, especially considering the toothlessness of the opposition leader. Indeed, Sir Keir Starmer has been almost mute on the scandal, leaving students to take matters into their own hands.

Student protests in London have heard chants of "Boris Johnson is a wanker!" and one brilliant sign read: "No Etonians were harmed during the making of this algorithm." 

Northern Ireland and Wales had earlier announced they would award grades based on teachers' predictions, meaning England would've been the outlier. Let's make no mistake, this U-turn was not the government recognising its mistake and choosing to do the right thing, it was the result of student pressure and a public outcry. Our voices made the difference.

The opposition seems missing in action, even when students are seeing their hard work undone and their futures stolen by a government of eugenicists. It's down to the people to be the opposition going forwards because it would seem both main parties are part of the same establishment machine. However, today is one fine example of the people fighting back and winning a rare victory.

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