Sir Keir Starmer condemns 'deep injustice' of downgraded A-Level results

13 August 2020, 14:38

Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Sir Keir Starmer has condemned the "deep injustice" of many A-Level students having their final results downgraded by a new system.

The Labour leader said the algorithm to determine student's grades this year has failed and has led to students unfairly losing out on opportunities.

Speaking at Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College in Darlington, he said: "It's the system that has downgraded and has robbed them of a chance to do something - go on to university, go on to college, go on to the job they wanted to do.

Keir Starmer has been speaking to students at Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College
Keir Starmer has been speaking to students at Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College. Picture: PA Images

"For thousands of families that is the feeling this morning - a deep sense of anger and frustration at the system that has marked them down unfairly.

"In addition to that, you've got the fact that even on its own terms - this was to standardise the system - and it's failed.

"The Government has got to accept that something has gone horribly wrong."

Read more: A-level results LIVE - 280,000 A-level results downgraded

Mr Starmer said he was going to "fight their corner" and challenge the Government to change the system and reduce pressures on students and their families.

"Those individuals [students] need to hear the Government recognise that something has gone wrong, that they're going to put in place an individual appeals system so they can do something about it, and that they're not going to rule out options for what that should look like.

"We're going to speak up loud and clear for all those who have suffered an injustice today."

The system - created this year because students were unable to sit exams due to Covid-19 - was designed to allow teachers to submit the grades they thought each student would have received if they had sat the papers.

Exam boards moderated these grades to ensure this year's results were not significantly higher than previously and the value of students' grades were not undermined.

Despite record-high results, exam boards downgraded nearly two in five (39.1%) pupils' grades in England, according to data from Ofqual - which amounts to around 280,000 entries being adjusted down after moderation.

In England, a total of 35.6% of grades were adjusted down by one grade, 3.3% were brought down by two grades and 0.2% came down by three grades, figures from Ofqual show.

The Government announced late on Tuesday, however, that students will have the "safety net" of being able to use mock exam results as the basis for an appeal if they are higher than the calculated grade.

It came hours after Scotland's Education Secretary announced that moderated calculated grades would be scrapped following an outcry after more than 124,000 results were downgraded.

As results were handed out this morning, Mr Williamson tweeted his congratulations to students and thanked teachers and staff, but it prompted many angry responses from parents and students who challenged him to explain their final grade.

Mr Starmer blasted education secretary Gavin Williamson for his handling of the results, claiming that he had enough to time to put a well-functioning system in place.

"The Government is all over the place here. The problem of how do you assess results when you don't have exams is obviously a very real problem," he said.

"But it's a problem that's been sitting there for weeks and months - and here we were with two days to go and Gavin Williamson changes and removes the goalposts - that's caused uncertainty - and now he's not come up with a response to the obvious injustice of the system."

Mr Starmer laid down a set of demands on the Government to fix the issue, including waiving the fee for appealing results.

"At the very least we need individual appeals so that individuals can appeal, we need to waive the fee for appealing and we need to mandate universities and colleges to be more flexible," he said.