'Ofqual would have known algorithm would hit poor students', Ex-Ofsted chief says

17 August 2020, 23:12

Sir Michael Wilshaw said Ofqual "would have known" the algorithm would hurt poor students
Sir Michael Wilshaw said Ofqual "would have known" the algorithm would hurt poor students. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

A former Ofsted chief has said Ofqual "would have known their algorithm would hit the poorest hardest".

After days of mounting pressure and with students up and down the country left in dismay after having their results downgraded by the computer algorithm, No10 changed its policy on exam results to allow teacher assessments to dictate student grades.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted from 2012-2016, told LBC's Eddie Mair this U-turn was "the right decision...to give justice and fairness to the youngsters."

He added that Ofqual, the examination regulator, had the job of ensuring the algorithm put in place would accurately grade pupils.

"Ofqual would have known the exam algorithm would affect the poorest hardest"

Sir Michael said: "When the autopsy is done on this, I'd be very interested to know how much Ofqual had consulted the interested parties, headteachers and stakeholders because at some stage they would have known what the effects of this algorithm was going to be.

"They would have known that it was going to hit the poorest hardest, they would have known that big sixth forms in the state sector were going to be hit the hardest.

Read more: Teachers' predictions to be used in Wales for A-level and GCSE results

Read more: Students say they can 'breathe again' after government U-turn on results

"They would have known there was going to be undue advantage to small sixth forms particularly in the independent sector, they'd have known all this.

"At what stage did Ofqual, and particularly its leaders, say to ministers this isn't going to work?"

There are now growing calls for Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to resign following the furore.

There are now calls for Gavin Williamson to resign
There are now calls for Gavin Williamson to resign. Picture: PA

Both Mr Williamson and regulator Ofqual have since apologised for the distress caused by the fiasco, with the education secretary saying he realised the "unfairnesses" within the grades system over the weekend.

However, there is now mounting pressure for the Cabinet minister to either resign or be sacked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson following the chaos caused by the A-Levels saga.

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

The MP for Oxford West and Abingdon wrote on Twitter: "Despite the warnings, the Education Secretary's botched handling of grade awards has left countless young people stressed and anxious.

"The Prime Minister must show leadership and personally apologise for his Government's shambles. While it is embarrassing for the Government, it has been excruciating for students.

Thousands of students are celebrating after the U-turn meant they got their predicted grades
Thousands of students are celebrating after the U-turn meant they got their predicted grades. Picture: PA

"It is clear the Education Secretary is out of his depth. If he doesn't walk, he must be pushed."

Meanwhile, former Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Zarah Sultana called for Mr Williamson's dismissal while urging BTEC students to continue their fight to overturn their downgraded results.

The Labour MP for Coventry South wrote on Twitter: "We now need to push to ensure that unfair BTEC downgrades are corrected, that no one wrongly loses a place at university, & that financial support is made available for those who have to defer.

"And Gavin Williamson should resign for causing this fiasco."