Student who wrote story about biased algorithm has results downgraded

Jessica Johnson, who won Orwell youth prize for dystopian tale, hopes U-turn will restore university place

An 18-year-old student who predicted this year’s A-level results crisis in an award-winning dystopian story about an algorithm deciding school grades according to social class, has had her own results downgraded.

“I’ve fallen into my story. It’s crazy,” said Jessica Johnson, a student at Ashton Sixth Form College in Greater Manchester. “I based it on the educational inequality I already saw. I just exaggerated that inequality and added the algorithm. But I really didn’t think it would come true as quick as it did!”

Johnson won an Orwell youth prize senior award in 2019 for her short story titled A Band Apart, which was the first one she had written. Set in 2029, it imagined a system where students were sorted into bands based on their background. “Mum still thinks I can be a doctor. She doesn’t understand how hard it is to get into Band 1 for people like us,” says a character in the story.

Johnson had her English A-level result downgraded from A to B and lost her place at the University of St Andrews before the government’s U-turn on Monday. Now that results will be based on teacher assessments instead, she is hopeful that her place will be restored. Continue reading

A-levels and GCSEs: Student tells minister ‘you’ve ruined my life’

A student rejected by her chosen university after her A-levels were downgraded has told schools minister Nick Gibb, “you’ve ruined my life”.

Nina Bunting-Mitcham, speaking on the BBC’s Any Questions, said her marks were three grades lower than predicted.

And talking to the BBC on Saturday, she said that getting three Ds had made her feel like life “was completely over”.

The government says it will cover the cost of appeals after 280,000 grades in England were downgraded.

With school exams cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s grades in England were awarded using a controversial modelling system, with the key factors being the ranking order of pupils and the previous exam results of schools and colleges.

In England, 36% of entries had grades lower than their teachers predicted and 3% were down two grades, prompting anger and distress among schools, colleges and students.

Nina told the BBC her teachers were “utterly shocked” on learning her predicted results of ABB – in biology, chemistry and psychology – had plummeted.

Continue reading