Maimuna Hassan got her place at Cambridge University.
She exemplified all that was wrong with the A Level standardisation system which was scrapped last week. She was marked down for being an ‘outlier’ – someone who performed much better than the previous record at her school.
Her predicted grades from her teachers at Chiswick School were A*s in Maths and Computer Science, and an A in Physics. The dodgy algorithm marked her down to A in Maths and a B in Physics. As a result she lost her offers from Cambridge University and Imperial College to read Engineering.
She wrote to the Prime Minister, telling Boris what this meant for her, explaining that she is the oldest child of Somali immigrants in a family of six and when she came to this country English was her third language. She persevered at Chiswick School in a period in which it had five head teachers in as many years:
‘Despite very disrupted teaching and offers from more academic sixth forms, I continued at my comprehensive school because I wanted to remain part of a community which had become very important to me and I was confident that I would work hard enough independently to achieve my ambitions, even if there were problems at school’ she wrote.
‘Thus, I spent a great deal of money (which was difficult to come by) on books and resources for extra home study, as well as attending as many extra-curricular courses as I could find. I studied Maths, Physics and Computer Science, subjects which I knew had a poor history of results at Chiswick, but I was determined to go into engineering. I started a Robotics Club at school in order to engage my interests more thoroughly and to give back to my school community. We ended up training younger students and winning regional competitions in order to compete at national level’.
The school has undergone considerable change over the past eighteen months. Head teacher Laura Ellener was brought in to turn it around and it has gone from a school which was marked as ‘Requires Improvement’ by Ofsted to one which was ‘Good’ and in the area of personal development ‘Outstanding’.
Now, after a rollercoaster week of upset and stress, I am pleased to report that Cambridge have re-offered her place and she is delighted.