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