At an A-Levels protest in 2020 (Picture: Guy Smallman)

“Grades will be lower than last year,” promised education secretary Gillian Keegan ahead of  A-Level results day this Thursday in England and Wales. One in five teenagers were expected to miss the grades offered by their first choice of university.

Much of the media, and many Tories, will say this is a reality check after the teacher-assessed inflated and soft grades during the pandemic.  They will cheer a return to the rigours of assessment that rigidly sorts people—and brands many as failures.

That’s what the system needs to work because fewer places are available due to cuts. 

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service said last week there were 22,410 courses available at 130 universities, compared with 23,280 this time last year.  As with every other aspect of education, exams put working class children at a disadvantage.

Exams are an elitist method to pit young people against each other. They teach and enforce hierarchy. And it privileges those who can afford to pay for their education and tutoring.

A few students from wider society are allowed to climb into higher social levels, or otherwise the ideology of progress would collapse.  But lower grades are part of a system that imposes wider class inequalities—and serves to keep working class children in their place.

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