SUSANNA REID: I'm giving ministers an 'F' for failure

From red carpet to real life…SUSANNA REID: It’s results day for my son and I’m giving ministers an ‘F’ for failure

  • Students in the UK are set to receive grades that are calculated by class, national outcomes and the school’s previous performance
  • Susanna Reid argues the class of 2020 should have their grades inflated 
  • She achieved the grades to study at Bristol University despite disastrous mocks

This morning, like thousands of other parents, I am gnawing on my nails waiting to discover the outcome of crucial A-level exams that my 18-year-old son didn’t get to sit.

Students like my son, who has a place at university which is dependent on getting the right grades, must place his fate in the hands of two groups of people: teachers and a faceless team at Ofqual, the exam regulator. It has come up with a mysterious system to award grades based on the pupil’s ranking in their class, national outcomes and, bizarrely, the school’s previous performance.

Basically, our children have been assessed, ranked and moderated in a way that processes them like graded sausages, rather than individuals.

The worry has only been exacerbated by last minute changes to the plans: on Tuesday, the Government announced a ‘triple lock system’ whereby students could receive the higher result out of their calculated grade, their mock grades, or resit the exams in the autumn.

British columnist Susanna Reid, vents her fury at how student’s grades are being calculates as her children wait for their A-Level and GCSE results. Pictured: Susanna’s children, in 2013

Some families could already be celebrating. For those students who excelled in their mocks, it’s happy days.

But I wonder if ministers understand how mocks work. They don’t conform to the same standards across schools. Some are marked harshly to give pupils a jolt and some students don’t take them seriously, preferring to cram at the last minute, what I call the ‘winging it method’ for exam success.

To be fair to pupils, the Education Secretary also seems to be following this dubious method. Gavin Williamson throwing in the mock result option has only added to the confusion. Some pupils hadn’t even taken their mocks before schools shut in March.

When I was in sixth form, I was so terrified of how little revision I had done for mine, that I simply didn’t turn up for most of them.

I also know what it’s like to pull off a triumphant essay, even though I’d felt unprepared at that terrifying moment before turning over the exam paper. That’s how, despite disaster in my mocks, I made the grades to study at Bristol University. It was pure relief when I got my results.

The class of 2020 won’t have that confidence-building experience today. Will they feel like celebrating even if their results are good? It’s the start of a double whammy for me, anyway. Next Thursday this scenario will be repeated for students expecting their GCSE results and I am in that boat, too, with my 16-year-old.

Susanna (pictured) argues grades should be inflated because the class of 2020 has been shortchanged, claiming the Government has failed students 

Thankfully, my son needs to reach a fairly low threshold to stay on at his state school, but I’ve still worked myself up.

The final choice in the ‘triple lock’ pick-and-mix system is that disappointed students can resit their exams in October. But let me remind you what most of those students have been doing since the end of March: the sum total of nothing academic in most cases.

Mine would score highly if tested on knowledge of our local park, short-cuts around South London on a bike and places to swim.


Simon Cowell falling off an e-bike when he hadn’t read the instructions is a case of holiday over-confidence.

This summer, I tried an e-scooter and was petrified. My worst holiday accident happened a few years ago on a bike after a few glasses of Whispering Angel rosé. If only there were clear instructions on how to avoid that!

In the past few weeks, I have pored over every story about the grading system and I still feel utterly perplexed. There was the outcry when a quarter of teachers’ mark recommendations for the Scottish Highers were downgraded, especially when it was revealed to be a postcode lottery, with students in the most deprived areas having marks reduced more than those in affluent neighbourhoods.

Nicola Sturgeon has admitted her government failed its students, and in a complete turnaround pupils will now receive the original marks estimated by their teachers.

But Westminster won’t allow the same to happen here, even though it puts English, Welsh and Northern Irish children at a disadvantage compared to their Scottish peers because they say it will lead to grade inflation from previous years.

Personally, I think a bit of grade inflation is the least we can offer to a cohort of pupils who have been so shortchanged.

It’s a total muddle. I’d give an F to Ofqual for prioritising a standardised system over the hopes and dreams of individual pupils. And an F to Gavin Williamson for neglecting to put proper back-up in place when schools closed.

Students will one day study this period in history lessons. And this Government will be judged to have failed the class of 2020.


Like the Prime Minister, I’ve launched a battle against my lockdown pounds as I am creeping up towards the BMI my doctor warned me about two years ago. Unrestrained snacking is the main problem, but exercise classes being off limits didn’t help either. I have never thought of myself as a gym bunny, but I just couldn’t get into working out at home.

So I’m back at my weekly spin class: usually last in, first out and lurking at the back. It’s weird having my temperature checked on the way in. Then again, better than on the way out when I’m sweaty, hot and bothered.


Susanna revealed she will be embracing the trend for 1950s high-waisted bikini pants, as seen on Coleen Rooney (pictured left)

On my holiday, I spent way too much time enviously scrolling through pictures of celebrities in their swimwear.

Perrie Edwards from Little Mix in the tiniest crochet bikini, 53-year-old Halle Berry in a sexy orange number straight out of her Bond wardrobe and the best of them all, Coleen Rooney and her £2,000 bikini and swimwear collection.

I’m daring to wear a bikini this summer, too, but one with a difference: it has really big bottoms. I’m loving the trend for 1950s high-waisted pants which provide a couple of inches more coverage, although I won’t be going for the Balmain style worn by Coleen in this picture — it cost £465!

And I certainly won’t be doing an Ulrika Jonsson, who very boldly posted a picture of herself sunbathing starkers in her own back garden.

I like the idea of no white bits, admittedly, but I’ll fill mine in with fake tan.


I’d like to thank the sensible person who’s decided to extend the overly cautious ‘use by’ dates on beef, pork and lamb.

I don’t eat meat, but I do cook it for my sons, so I’m a slave to expiry dates. I have a different approach to vegetables, since they don’t come out of the ground with a best-before sticker. I have red onions in the fridge which are six months old, but I’ll still happily eat them.

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