The disadvantaged will suffer after exams cancelled, sofa-surfing student says

A-level student Samantha Smith fears that it will be disadvantaged teenagers who miss out in this year's "predicted grade" exams results.

Samantha Smith says disadvantaged teenagers will suffer after exams were cancelled
Samantha Smith says disadvantaged teenagers will suffer after exams were cancelled

The 18-year old, a student at Newport Girls' High School found herself homeless at 16 and had to sofa surf through her A-level studies. She said she was lucky to have mentoring and other practical help from staff at her school as she struggled to make it into lessons and hold down three evening jobs to make ends meet.

But now she fears that not being able to take her exams because of the lockdown will mean a drop in the grades she had been hoping to get despite her daily struggles.

She says others from disadvantaged backgrounds could be even worse of as teachers, unaware of their personal problems, tried to predict grades for those dealing with homelessness, poverty or abuse.

Samantha, like thousands of others across the county as bracing themselves for this week's A-level results and next week's GCSEs, all awarded without sitting an exam, instead based on work up to lockdown.

She had been hoping to beat all the odds to get good grades to help her go onto university and into a career in law and eventually politics.

"Because of difficult family circumstances I ended up sofa surfing with friends and colleagues and then going into emergency accommodation," she said.

"I went through my A-levels with three jobs in the evening, from 6pm until 2am. Then I would have to get up at 6am to get two buses to school. My school attendance really suffered. But I went to an amazing school with amazing teachers who helped my through it, even to the extend of helping with my laundry.

"Even though I had three jobs sometimes the only food I had all day was my free school meal."

She said that because of her school attendance, only 60 per cent, her grades could now be lower than if she had sat the exams.

"I and others like me, most of whom won't have had the help I received at school, haven't had a chance this year to prove ourselves and show we can get good grades despite everything," she said.

"Pupils from low-income backgrounds, such as those who have experienced homelessness or poverty, are already at a disproportionate disadvantage when it comes to academic achievement and future prospects. "

"Only six per cent of care leavers go into higher education on an average year, and just 8,173 estranged students — who, like myself, have no parental support or are supported by social services — are enrolled in university this academic year.

"The reality is that exam cancellations and school closures will almost certainly widen the gap in educational achievement between poorer pupils and their more socio-economically secure peers.

Samantha said that if she did not get the grades she hoped for, she would like to extend the internship she is currently doing and apply again for university the following year.

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