What if it still wasn’t enough?

Result days are never easy on anyone. It does not matter how great your academic track record is or how confident you felt after the exam, there will always be a lingering sense of “what if it still wasn’t enough?”. The pressure of performing well in one’s A-Levels has grown exponentially with newer and harder specifications for already competitive universities. But for working-class ethnic minorities, good grades are in some cases our one-way ticket towards economic mobility, otherwise, we are statistically more likely to remain socially stagnant than our middle-class white counterparts without a degree. This situation is further challenged by the fact that we are heading into one of the biggest recessions of which, again people from working-class backgrounds will be disproportionately affected by.

The classist algorithm used to determine A-Level grades arguably epitomises a lot of what's wrong with the British education system. While the government have announced a U-turn, it is still well known that children from state school backgrounds are less likely to make into the top universities and as a result, a small demographic of the population is overrepresented in professional jobs; however, there is much more dishonesty in this system.  Indeed, the culture that degrees from Oxbridge or Russell Group universities are of inherently higher value than diplomas from other universities is an elitist lie. However, this is something a lot of A-Level students extend their self worth to and have, naturally, in most cases have been unable to experience the world of work to properly gauge that one’s intellect and talent goes beyond their grades and their university place. I have observed first hand in my own household with my younger sister, how mentally crushing this ordeal has been and there is very little I can do to comfort.  But what is harder is to convince someone at such a formative period in their life that where they go and what they study is not the be-all and end-all and that their work ethic and character is what is going to get them places. When we can clearly see even from our current Cabinet that no amount of high-quality education can translate into the cultivation of truly empathetic and tactful characters. While this comes down to many things, there is a trend of being over privileged and overpromoted that enables such figures to come into government.

While the A-Level fiasco continues with great uncertainty it is paramount that the mental health of these 17-18-year-olds is also our top priority. They have been quarantined for what should have been their most memorable summers. Getting into university is the goal of many and is the most important thing in their lives. Social media is also a very harmful tool during this time in still continuously showcasing academic exceptionalism with my Twitter feed being filled with a sleuth of students having their offers from Oxbridge withheld or being downgraded two or so grades from an A*. However, it is important to recognise and still have the same anger for students who have missed their university place whether or not it was from Oxbridge or whether it was the difference between an A* and a B. For others it may be the difference of a C grade and D grade, which still matters and has the potential to change a young person's life. 

While resources are limited I would urge all students who are struggling emotionally to educate themselves as much as they can utilising  online resources surrounding how to cope with feelings of anxiety. There is no one size fits all method so its best research and do what works for you. Moreover, parents, siblings and in general people who work with A-level students to really do the best they can in order to support them during this time if they have not gotten the results they wanted. 

Written by Nuzhah Miah, follow her on twitter by clicking here

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