Open letter to the Secretary of State for Education and the Chief Regulator of Ofqual in response to the BTEC and A-Level exams crisis
Dear Rt Honorable Gavin Williamson CBE (Secretary of State for Education) and Sally Collier (Chief Regulator; Ofqual),
Psychologists for Social Change is a network of applied psychologists, researchers, academics, therapists and students who are interested in applying psychology to policy. We aim to generate social and political action towards a psychologically-healthier society. We felt compelled to write to you with regards to the BTEC and A-Level exam results in order to outline our concerns. We initially prepared to request a rapid revision of the application of the A-Level exam results algorithm. We are pleased to see that this process has been revised. However, our concerns about the impact of the use of the algorithm and subsequent U-turn remain.
Our concerns are as follows:
The algorithm used to award students’ A-Level grades was flawed in a way that benefited those with greater privilege and penalised those who were already disadvantaged. Data show that independent schools in England saw the greatest improvement of A* and A grades, up 4.7 percentage points. This is compared with an increase of just 1.7, 2 and 0.3 percentage points in England’s academies, comprehensives and colleges, respectively. This unfair advantage was conferred to private schools purely because the small cohort sizes meant the algorithm gave more weight to teacher predicted grades than historical data or prior student attainment. Thus, in private schools, teacher predictions were less likely to be downgraded and students who already held a privileged position in the education system were rewarded.
The following letter to the Taoiseach (Prime Minister of Ireland) and Minister for Equality and Integration was penned by Psychologists for Social Change Ireland. The letter calls for the end of the Direct Provision system for accommodating those seeking asylum in the Republic of Ireland. You can read more about this system, which has been heavily criticised by human rights groups here and here. The letter is a living document which has been covered in the Irish press. It has been signed by 150 applied and research psychologists to date.
Open letter to the Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Roderic O'Gorman
Dear Taoiseach and Minister,
We are a group of applied and research psychologists practising in Ireland who believe that direct provision must be promptly dismantled and replaced with a more humane and ethical alternative. We wish to express our solidarity with those seeking asylum on our shores.
Our nation has a responsibility to protect those who come to Ireland seeking refuge from persecution, famine and war. We observe that the direct provision system has barely met the basic physiological needs of these individuals and families, while causing untold psychological harm. We are concerned by the many systemic barriers which deny those living in direct provision the dignity of fully participating in Irish society. Bulelani Mfaco of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland has explained how this system “eats away at your humanity”. As a country we must do better.
By Aya Adra
I like to think of the summer of 2014, around the time I was finishing up the second year of my bachelor’s degree, as the period when I started becoming a social psychologist. For a couple of sticky, hot months in Beirut, sitting under a distinctly loud and largely useless fan, I listened to my professor share what seemed like mind-shattering theoretical and empirical knowledge on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Every bit of information that was sprung onto me felt like a revelation – the usual suspects of any Intro to Social Psych class; Milgram, Zimbardo, Asch, and their likes. Every theory, every finding, seemed to explain phenomena I had been witnessing and marvelling at for years. So much so that I went around spraying my newly found discoveries onto friends who were rather unenthused, and claiming with reverberating confidence that the world would be a better place if everyone were mandatorily exposed to social psychological knowledge. It truly felt like I, a biology student who had randomly taken this conveniently timed elective, had finally found the discipline that would equip me to fight for the world I wanted; a just world. On the last day of lectures, in between questions about the final exam’s format and informal feedback on the course, the professor asked us what we thought the main insight of social psychology was – what were we taking home with us, us liberal arts students from across disciplines who would go back to investing in whatever major we had signed up for? After a string of pseudo-sophisticated answers (one of which was very likely mine, although my motivated memory conveniently leaves that out today), the professor concluded the class with his own takeaway; “context matters.”
PSC is a network of people interested in applying psychology to generate social and political action. You don't have to be a member of PSC to contribute to the blog