At the start of the month many of us were looking forward to receiving A-level and GCSE awards for our aspirational teenagers who had been cut-off from the opportunity to prove themselves in the final lap. At stake for the teenagers in our family was an offer from Cardiff Uni (to follow History) for Immy and A-level options for Max.
At around 8am on Saturday 15th August 2020 a total of 731,855 A-level results were issued to students based on this algorithm: Pkj = (1-rj)Ckj + rj(Ckj + qkj – pkj). OK with that? No, not OK, not good!
The UCAS website crashed within a few minutes of publishing the results (so not properly tested then?). Initially, only the students that had gone into school could obtain their awards, via their teachers who had access to an alternative online access to the students. Immy had gone into school to collect her results, and was shocked to find out she’d been substantially down graded. Fortunately, within minutes of receiving this new she had confirmation from Cardiff (via another teacher with access to their system) that her downgraded results were still acceptable. Inevitably some of her friends did not fare so well.
Within hours of the UCAS website coming back up it was pretty clear that a significant proportion of approximately 274,000 students and been awarded wildly inappropriate grades. All media channels became increasingly inundated with examples of gross inaccuracies and injustices throughout the day and the algorithm that was used to calculate the grades was at the centre of the controversy.
Scotland ‘bottled it’ first and announced that students could use ‘centre assessed’ grades in favour of algorithm results where it was felt that the algorithm had unfairly penalised the candidate. This (of course) put students from Scotland at an unfair advantage over everyone else and uproar ensued for the rest of the weekend.
Eventually, late on Monday 17th the Education Secretary announced England would follow Scotland’s lead and the rest of the UK followed suit. By the time the announcement was made, however, many Universities had already filled their places for the courses in highest demand. This was a really bad outcome for all those students who would now have to re-plan and in many cases miss-out completely on the first big step towards their intended career.
A couple of days after the A-level awards fiasco it was announced that GCSE awards would also be based on centre assessed grades.
After much posturing, the man at the top of the food-chain Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, remains in post at the end of the month. Of-course, he has declined to take any responsibility what-so-ever, instead choosing to blame the OFSTED line of command.
While the spread of COVID is no longer monopolising the UK headlines this month, many of us are mindful that we are in a lull between waves and we trust that government is going it’s best to get the economy re-opening for business. A government backed ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme has been providing up to 50% off restaurant food and drink during mid-week (up to £10 per meal) to incentivise people to support the restaurant industry which must be close to collapsing.
The government is continuing to encourage a return to work and there is a lot of media focus on the pros and cons of taking holidays abroad. It seems to me that as fast as one travel / quarantine and restriction is lifted (for a region or country) others are put in place. I recall the news headlines on Friday 21st August of UK citizens trying to get back to the UK from Croatia, Austria and Trinidad and Tobego before 4am the next morning to avoid a new 14d day quarantine restriction.
On the 21st August STA Travel went into liquidation. I’d applied for a job with them the week before! It must have come as an awful shock to employees, and bad news for all who had booked trips and holidays with them. I haven’t been able to find out how many business have gone under (so far) as a result of Coronavirus, but I sense that is it a lot. There are very strong indicators of an impending UK recession and unemployment hitting levels we haven’t seen since the 70’s. My quest for work is certainly becoming demoralising this month.
On the 12th August the ONS reported that GDP fell by 20.4% in the first quarter this year. This marks the biggest every quarterly decline since records began (in 1955). These results confirm that the UK currently has the lowest economic performance in the G7.
The global picture on COVID remains dreadfully ominous as by the end of the month the World Health Organisation had recorded almost 26 million cases and 859,554 deaths from the disease.
Back on the home front, like most other folk, we’re continuing in a routine that is as close as possible to normality. Most of my days are spent job hunting but nI am not quite getting it right at the moment. I still take solace from the garden find pleasure in harvesting the produce from out fruit and veg plot . The lettuce and spinach is all gone now, we’ve had a couple of decent cumbers so far, some runner beans, broad beans, tomatoes, raspberries and there is other produce still coming through.
Due to current circumstances we are not going away for a family holiday. Instead, we’re continuing our family day trips to local destinations with excursions to Petworth House and Ham House. Petworth House has an amazing private art collection on display and the extensive grounds are fabulous. The 17th Century walled gardens of Ham House are just to amazing, full of geometric patterns that are like something out of Alice in Wonderland.
The football season is on the cusp of resuming with teams playing to almost empty stadiums, devoid of fans. I can’t see how that will work for most clubs outside the premier league who don’t have TV revenues coming in. Onslow FC has started warming up and my team, now Under 17s has had a few friendlies revealing new found strengths and a few ‘areas of improvement’.
I particularly enjoyed settling down to watch this year’s Community Shields match on 29th August. It was between Arsenal (FA Cup Winners) and Liverpool (Premier League Winners). Having reached a 1-1 score line after extra time it went to penalties and Arsenal clinched a 5-4 win.
Arsenal’s performance was convincing against an awesome Liverpool side. Indeed, it felt like a statement of intent from the Gunners.