Theatre in Wales

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"Computer Says No"

A Political Diary

Teachers, Parents, Ministers , Education of Wales , October 30, 2020
A Political Diary by Teachers, Parents, Ministers The second lockdown, in operation in Wales but not in England, has been timed for the half-term. Children have born a heavy burden these last seven months. The prohibition on play has been hardly touched on. But children were a cause of a big political rumpus. The public life of Walles tends towards the docile. But August 20th a press statement was issued by the Federation of North Wales Secondary School Head Teachers.

“We cannot over-state how disappointed, confused and concerned we are about the A-level and AS results our young adults received today (13.08.20).” That kind of language directed at the government is not common. “...Not a full reflection of the reality in schools. There are huge disparities in the outcomes of individuals which we cannot track, justify or explain. Pupils’ grades have moved up and down in ways we do not understand...this data in many areas has been dismissed, devalued and discounted...making the allocation of grade impossible to fathom and unfair.”

“...Our pupils’ grades will be with them for the rest of their lives, they will be on their CV for ever. COVID-19 has already disadvantaged them, but life after COVID, within a recession-hit country, means their outcomes will be even more important than ever as they enter a challenging job market. Our students have worked for these grades and deserve them; an algorithm that dismisses this is immoral. If there was ever a time for trust it was now...This has been a statistical model, over reliant on AS outcomes and historical data, and dismissive of the opinion of a profession who supported their students over many years.”

Voices were direct and the quotations attributable to named head teachers.

“It can never be forgotten that every inconsistency is a child whose life has been turned upside by an algorithm and this cannot be allowed to happen. It is unjust and immoral and our children deserve better.”

“At a time of economic crisis and spiralling unemployment, I had hoped that the interests of our young people would come first. Regrettably, students have been disregarded, downgraded and simply told ‘computer says no’. It is deeply regrettable that here in Wales, leaders have not had the courage of their convictions to follow the outstanding example set in Scotland where young people have been put first. Trust and confidence in Welsh Government, Qualifications Wales and WJEC is now at an all-time low and I appeal to them to make decisive changes ahead of the GCSE results next week.”

“...students who are being disadvantaged in their applications to Universities as result of the algorithm being used in Wales to calculate final grades when compared with their counterparts in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This is wholly unacceptable.”

Parents protested outside the Senedd. The Minister reversed her policy. The First Minister, interviewed on the Sunday Politics programme, stated that his Government had been obliged to as other governments had done so. He remained loyal to the algorithm, statisticians held as more important than educators or children.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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