Gavin Williamson says Ofqual 'didn't deliver' on exams

18 August 2020, 08:29

The Education Secretary was speaking to LBC the day after the announcement was made
The Education Secretary was speaking to LBC the day after the announcement was made. Picture: LBC
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Gavin Williamson has told LBC that Ofqual "didn't deliver" on the promised system that the Government believed would be in place for assessing A-level and GCSE results.

The Education Secretary apologised to young people for the distress caused to them by the downgrading of results.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari Mr Williamson said it was important for him to "ensure fairness" and that young people would get the grades that they deserve.

When asked by Nick if the Government had failed the Minister said exam regulator Ofqual "didn't deliver the system they we had been reassured and believed would be in place."

He told LBC that the Government was working with universities to ensure they have a "record year" by looking at ways they can expand.

Mr Williamson highlighted that there had been a "steep decline" in the number of students coming from EU nations, partly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said this year's number of students eligible to go to university was "2% down on what it was last year".

When the LBC presenter asked Mr Williamson if he had offered to resign the Government Minister did not answer the question, instead saying he was working on making sure "students get the grades that they deserve," as well as working to ensure all pupils are able to return back to schools in September.

He said his third priority was making sure an education revolution continues, with an increase in standards.

The Minister has come under huge pressure over the Government's U-turn over allowing GCSE and A-level results in England to be based on teachers' predicted grades.

On Monday Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Layla Moran said Mr Williamson should walk following his "botched handling" of grade awards.

The announcement by the Education Secretary came after 24 hours of mounting pressure from Tory backbenchers, who claimed he had lost the confidence of the teaching profession and should resign.

It comes after Mr Williamson back-tracked to say results estimated by teachers could be used after mounting anger over the downgrading of about 40 per cent of A-level grades by exams regulator Ofqual on the basis of a controversial algorithm.

The Cabinet minister apologised for the "distress" caused by the abandoned policy which was intended to give fair results to pupils who could not sit exams because of the coronavirus crisis.

The Westminster Government's U-turn in time for the GCSE results in England on Thursday brings the nation into line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which will all use teacher-predicted grades.

Mr Williamson said he acted after realising over the weekend that there were "real concerns" about results, but his intervention at such a late stage led some critics to call for his resignation.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Mr Williamson had previously defended the "robust" system, while the Education Secretary had insisted there would be "no U-turn, no change" and said a shift could lead to "rampant grade inflation".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "The Government has had months to sort out exams and has now been forced into a screeching U-turn after days of confusion."

The move could cause further uncertainty for A-level students hoping to go to university, as an increase in the number of people achieving the required entry grades could cause trouble in the admissions process.

For others the change may already be too late if they have missed out on courses as a result of the lower grades awarded last week.