Ava, a sixth form student, describes how she helped to instigate the protests last weekend which led to the government U-turn.
After hearing about the algorithm, which initially sounded like an ambiguous copy and paste of last year’s results (only with the less fortunate suffering the most), all I could think was, ‘If this isn’t blatant classism, what is?’ I wasn’t only upset at the sight of my own results, but hearing about those, who I knew were some of the most hardworking and intelligent students, losing their firm university choices. The question that loomed over the upsetting lack of successful university students, which George Bernard Shaw would also invite, is ‘why not?’
You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’
What started as details on notes for a demonstration became a viral video. My initial point of action to get the details of the protest out there was to use the most popular app: TikTok. I wasn’t surprised at the rapid response from those online, commenting all sorts of things in order to manipulate the algorithm and have the video appear on other screens. I was lucky to have access to contacts within media outlets that were popular with the youth, and the other organisers effectively used their time contacting MPs.
The hardest part was determining the turn out. We had no clue how big the protest was going to get, and within two days, my TikTok had over 100,000 views and three thousand shares. Rapidly, I created a poster to share on other social media platforms, which spread like wildfire. We had organised a protest in central London, yet despite the large amount of shares and views, it was difficult to tell how many would actually join the fight during the pandemic.
It was possible to go off the two protests which had happened over the previous days, but the uncertainty of our own made it difficult to predict. So when it came to the actual day, and I saw surges of teenagers come towards Parliament Square from the station, I was in absolute awe.
Words cannot describe the contagious energy that was felt during the protest. The speeches that were given provoked such anger and the chants that were sung released such fury. ‘Down with the algorithm!’ The atmosphere was like no other. I am certain it was moments like those shared at the protest that conjured such fear for figures like Gavin Williamson. I don’t doubt he underestimated the power of our cohort.
‘My future has been ripped out of my hands,’ said one student, ‘because of my class and my family income.’ Students had made their own placards saying things like, ‘Trust our teachers,’ and ‘Gavin is a fool. Don’t give my grades to private schools.’
Now, having witnessed a U-Turn in GCSE and A-Level grades, I am filled with content knowing that my peers are appreciated for their worth and are not victims to a brutal system based on a computer pattern, discussed by those who turn a blind eye to classism and nepotism. Yet, I do worry for our future in education, as BTec students remain in the dark and future freshers are uncertain on their social proximities.
I’m set to return to sixth form, with little confidence on the effectiveness of my studies in the term which follows. As well as needing to undergo safety measures in order to remove any anxiety from both the students and staff. At this moment in time, the most I as a student could ask for is support for teachers, as the wellbeing of all of us is fundamental in tackling this virus whilst in education. There should be no divide between those of the student body, the teachers and those within the department of education; we are all on the same team, and this needs to be understood.