'We are fighting to get all of our students A-level justice' vows Harborough headteacher

There has been national anger after some grades awarded by teachers have been adjusted downwards by England’s exam regulator Ofqual

Monday, 17th August 2020, 9:54 am
Updated Monday, 17th August 2020, 10:01 am
Dan Cleary, principal at Robert Smyth Academy.

The head of a Market Harborough secondary school is vowing – we are fighting to get all of our students A-level justice.

Dan Cleary, the principal at Robert Smyth Academy, made the pledge hours after over 100 sixth-formers got their results on Thursday August 13.

He said that many pupils at the high-performing Burnmill Road school got the grades they wanted and deserved following the Covid-19 crisis cancellation of exams.

But some did not as fury has erupted all over the country over grades awarded by teachers being adjusted downwards by England’s exam regulator Ofqual.

Dan told the Harborough Mail: “It has been a very challenging week or so to be honest.

“And it’s been a week of very mixed emotions.

“We are thrilled for our kids who have done very well.

“But we are now going into battle for students who have not done as well as they expected or perhaps deserved.”

On the plus side, he said a fifth of 18-year-olds are now set to go on to one of the 24-strong cluster of Russell Group universities.

“They are made up of some of the country’s most prestigious universities, including the likes of Cambridge, Durham and Oxford.

“It’s fantastic and we have more students going to these universities than we did last year,” said Dan.

“This is an incredibly positive, exciting story.

“It’s a brilliant reflection on the school and on our staff but most of all, of course, on the kids themselves that they have achieved this amazing level of success.

“More students than not have got the right grades for them in this unprecedented year when none of them got to sit their actual A-level exams.

“Most sixth-formers are being able to access the progression routes that they want – which is very encouraging.”

But asked about students who feel short-changed by the tumultuous, fast-changing grading and appeals system, Dan admitted: “We have got very disappointed students as well.

“They have ended up being given grades that they want to appeal.

“I have contacted Ofqual to ask about their appeals process – and I am looking for urgent answers.

“I cannot talk about numbers of pupils here because it’s a very fluid picture at the moment.

“But I can tell you that there are students that we are supporting.

“I am still awaiting a response from Ofqual.

“But I want to hear from them about the timescale that we have to appeal as soon as possible.

“Students can’t appeal separately – they can only challenge their grades through us, the school.

“So we will be doing all we can as fast as we can to pursue this on their behalf.”

Super-busy Dan, who’s also gearing up to welcome back over 1,000 youngsters in September, said they are giving shattered students access to the latest Government guidance and information.

“We are doing everything we can to fight their corner.

“We will be appealing for and backing every student where there’s a valid reason to do so.

“We are their servants.

“This has been a very challenging experience for all our students,” said the popular academy boss.

“We can only hope that the coronavirus crisis is a one-off and this never happens again.

“Many of our students have already made contingency arrangements in case not everything went as planned.

“But receiving your crucial A-level results is hard enough without having to go through these very different, extraordinary circumstances.”

Dan said teachers had worked around the clock to produce a “thorough and robust process to support students through these times”.

“I obviously wish for all of our students going forward that they will be able to sit national exams as normal.

“I’m sure that this has been a very difficult logistical task for the Government to plan and carry out since they decided that taking exams wouldn’t be possible.

“Senior educational leaders should not be criticising Government policy on this openly,” he insisted.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have faced a torrent of criticism as the goalposts on deciding and appealing A-level grades have been moved time and again.

But Dan declared: “I don’t want to get sucked into the politics of this massive issue – that’s not my concern here.

“What can I say without hesitation is that every one of our students matters here.

“No one will get left behind – we feel very passionate about this.

“We are so proud of this year’s group.

“We have had so many brilliant boys and girls – so many inspiring success stories.

“They are heading off to world-class universities such as Oxford and Cambridge and we’ll be keeping in touch with all of them.

“They’ve got brilliant futures in front of them.

“And we are sure that they will return to Robert Smyth in time to help inspire our next generation of students.”

Get in touch with us if you know a student whose career or university plans are in tatters following the A-level furore at [email protected]