|Volume 50 Number 32, August 22, 2020||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
David McAllister, Counterfire
Students and teachers in Newcastle on August 19 marked a crucial victory over downgrading, and demanded Education Secretary Gavin Williamson's resignation and that education justice should prevail.
In what was originally planned as a protest against the shameful downgrading of A-level students by the cruel Ofqual algorithm, students and teachers instead gathered in Newcastle in a spirit of triumph following the news of the Tories' U-turn in the face of popular pressure.
The event, hosted by local National Education Union (NEU) branches including North Tyneside, Gateshead and Durham, was instead billed as a victory rally. But it also added two further demands - that students should now be guaranteed the university places denied them by the downgrading, and that Gavin Williamson pays for this cruelty with his job.
Emma Parker of the NEU congratulated the students on their victory and asserted that the right to an education "should not be dictated by your postcode". She also linked the battle for fair results to the need for a teacher's professional judgement to be trusted. Just like teachers trust their students to achieve, the government should trust teachers to be the best judges of that achievement.
Several students emphasised the unnecessary stress they have been put through, and made it very clear that this was a crude attempt to defend class privilege. One female student said that the algorithm "punished the working classes, and rewarded the rich elite", accurately pointing out how the downgrading fell disproportionately on those from poorer backgrounds.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery expressed delight at what the students have achieved in forcing the U-turn, but added that there are other battles to be won in order to further push back against the cruel logic of class privilege which continues to limit the life chances of millions of young people, and to fight for a fairer education system for all.
Tony Dowling, a retired teacher speaking on behalf of the People's Assembly Against Austerity, said that this was a crucial victory in a wider battle against education inequality and against years of attacks on public services and working class people's lives.
These sentiments were widely shared at the rally. Daniel Kebede, NEU Vice President, reminded everyone of the sickening levels of child poverty in this country. Child poverty, like downgrading, is a result of deliberate political choices. This means that if we unite, then we can overturn the Tories' malicious agenda against all working class people.