Exam Results: A Fair Playing Field?

It is now over a week since the release of this year’s GCSE results, and over two weeks since the country’s A Level students received their own grades earlier this month. These two Thursdays in August are monumental landmarks in the calendar for thousands of young people across the country. Speaking in a personal capacity, I am looking forward to next summer, as it will be the first when I will not have been awaiting the results of some form of academic exam since 2011, when I was 14. This gives an idea of the extent to which some young people’s summers are defined by exams, and despite the fact that the usual coterie of celebrities have trotted out predictable platitudes about their own relative success with less-than-stellar grades (Jeremy Clarkson, we’re looking at you…), exam results continue to matter. It is worth saying at this point, without the patronising and self-centred manner of those who tweet out the same message every August without fail, that those reading who may not have got the results they were hoping for should not despair- there are routes to a successful career and life that lie outside the traditional academic route that society, not least in the media’s frenzied coverage of results days, emphasises above all else.

This does not mean that the consequences of falling short at GCSE level are not significant for many young people, however. On results day itself, the activist group Education Not Exclusion carried out a poster campaign on the London Underground’s Northern Line, turning it into the ‘School to Prison Line’ (pictured). Demonstrating the link between being sent out of class and eventual exclusion, the poster noted that “Every day, 35 students (a full classroom) are permanently excluded from school. Only 1% of them will go on to get the five good GCSEs they need to succeed”, using figures from a study by the Institute for Public Policy Research. Calling for “a more compassionate education system with a supportive approach to behaviour and discipline”, Education Not Exclusion were certainly right to highlight the sad fact that being excluded from school is almost always highly detrimental to a student’s chances of attaining five good GCSEs, the minimum requirements for many jobs and college or university courses. Amidst the media clamour around results day, with news outlets noting results rose despite tougher exams, it is important to bear in mind those young people who are left behind by the educational system, and the personal and structural reasons behind this.

In relation to The Future Melting Pot’s work, it is notable that homeless young people are far more likely to be excluded from school than non-homeless young people. Trends such as these lend credence to the calls of groups such as Education Not Exclusion: if education is to be a vehicle for social mobility and for disadvantaged young people to improve their life chances, then everything must be done to help the most vulnerable young people stay in school and achieve while they are there.

Photo Credit: Education Not Exclusion/ PA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *