University offer reinstated for exam crisis author Jessica Johnson

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image copyrightJessica Johnson
image captionJessica Johnson was awarded The Orwell Youth Prize in 2019 for her story A Band Apart

A writer whose dystopian story about an algorithm that sorted students into bands based on class has had her first choice university offer reinstated.

Jessica Johnson, 18, required an A in English A-level to earn a place at the University of St Andrews with a £16,000 scholarship, but initially got a B.

But after a government U-turn students grades will now be estimated by their teachers, rather than by an algorithm.

The Orwell Youth Prize winner said she was "relieved" to get into St Andrews.

"I have now got three A* and an A in English Literature and I have been offered a place at St Andrews.

'Delighted for Jessica'

"I'm so excited, happy and relieved," the student from Ashton Sixth Form College in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester said.

Ivar Møller, the University of St Andrews director of UK and EU admissions, said: "We are delighted for Jessica and look forward to welcoming her and all our new students into the St Andrews family in a few weeks' time."

Exams were cancelled this year because of the pandemic and about 40% of A-level results were downgraded by exams regulator Ofqual.

Ofqual calculated results using a formula in which the biggest determining factor was the school's performances in each subject in the previous three years.

On Monday, following an outcry, the government decided to use teachers' estimates.

image copyrightGayle Mcintyre/University of St Andrews
image captionThe University of St Andrews said it was delighted to welcome Jessica Johnson

Ms Johnson said the B grade awarded to her in English Literature on Thursday had resulted in her losing her place to read at the Scottish university with a scholarship.

She said it was "ironic to become a victim like one of her characters" in A Band Apart, a dystopian story about an algorithm that sorts students into bands based on class, for which she received the Orwell Youth Prize last year.

"I feel like I missed out on celebrating because of all this chaos. I'm glad it is all sorted out for me - I just hope it works out for everyone else, too.

"It has caused a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety to students."

She added: "If people in power had read my story maybe we wouldn't have been in this situation."

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