Exams fiasco risks a tainted generation of young people, we must not let this happen - Mark Casci

The Covid crisis has presented us with two tragedies.

The first is obviously the toll it has taken on public health with more than 40,000 of our citizens in the UK having died with the virus and more than 800,000 across the planet.

The second tragedy lies however with the impact the pandemic has presented to our society, our families, our economy and our very way of life.

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When the historians look back on this period, they will conclude in my view that it was the youngest and oldest among us who bore the brunt of this tragedy.

Exam protests

For our older countrymen and women, it will be recorded that the death toll was far higher for the elderly but also that so many people over the age of 65 were required to isolate far more heavily than those who were younger.

After a life of raising children and hard work, thousands of older people now face the reward of being unable to leave their homes, separation from their children and grandchildren and a continual fear that they will catch the virus.

At the other end of the generational spectrum the prospect of longer term damage is a clear and present threat.

The fiasco with the A Level, GCSE and B-Tec exams has been a source of national shame.

Exams were not sat in the conventional way

This newspaper has rightly called for the Education Secretary, Scarborough-born Gavin Williamson, to consider his position in light of the appalling reasoned system devised to assess 16-18-year olds via the exam system which has seriously harmed the life-prospects of millions of young people.

My concern for the long term however lies more in how this generation of young people will be viewed in terms of their attainment levels. 2020 has seen millions of people awarded GCSEs, A Levels and university degrees under unusual circumstances which differ from the usual route of sitting exams in a formal setting.

The Class of 2020 will stick out like a sore thumb to many employers as compared with young people who received their grades in the years before and after. My grave concern is that employers will view qualifications attained in 2020 as somehow less than, tainted by the memory of lockdown, algorithms and predicted grades.

Make no mistake, this would be a disaster for millions of youngsters and a failing for British business. While exams are a proven method of assessing the ability and capability of an individual they never tell the full story about their chances of success.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson

Many young people have already had their ability assessed in an unfair and unscientific way. To do the same to their life chances would be cruel and unusual.

Moreover, if firms choose to bypass the Class of 2020 they will be doing themselves a mighty disservice and risk missing out on the rich seam of talent that will doubtlessly exist within that cohort.

In fact, I would posit that the children and young adults who have come through this Covid crisis will have greater levels of resilience and pragmatism than seen for many years.In the mists of time when I collected mu GCSEs I remember hearing talk of how exams were getting easier. It is a fallacy that is repeated to this day, nearly a quarter of century later and based on increasing levels of success.

To those bloviating such nonsense I always say that perhaps it is a signifier of a young generation striving harder than the one before it, aware that the world is unfair and unforgiving but that hard work and talent improves your lot in life.

GCSE students celebrate

I have written before many times about my enduring faith in young people. As a soon to be 40-year-old (more on that later in the week) I look to the generations younger than myself full of optimism.

The idea of a tainted generation is one that upsets me deeply and would be a legacy of the coronavirus nightmare that would result in damage to people’s lives on a scale that would dwarf the public health crisis.

Build back better is the current cliché. I am convinced that there is no better foundation to do so than our young people.

They must have our full support.

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Thank you

James Mitchinson