'If he doesn't walk, he must be pushed' - calls grow for Gavin Williamson to resign

17 August 2020, 20:18

Gavin Williamson is facing calls to resign following his handling of the exam results fiasco
Gavin Williamson is facing calls to resign following his handling of the exam results fiasco. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

There are growing calls for Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to resign following the government's U-turn on exam results.

Earlier on Monday, No 10 and the exam regulator Ofqual performed a major U-turn that will affect the results of thousands of students in England.

The government's previous plan to use a controversial algorithm to determine students' A-Level and GCSE grades has now been scrapped and will be replaced with pupils receiving their teacher-assessed predicted grades if they are higher.

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.

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

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.

"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."

Ms Sultana's colleague Louise Haigh, the Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, also tweeted that Mr Williamson "must resign" before later deleting the tweet.

Following the announcement, YouGov conducted a snap poll that suggested four in 10 Brits believe the education secretary should resign, whereas two in 10 believe he should remain in his role.

The survey also found that 64 per cent of Labour voters believe he should walk, while only 28 per cent of Conservative voters agree.

Meanwhile, three-quarters of Brits - including 69 per cent of Tory voters - think the UK Government has handled the exam results saga badly.

Read more: GCSE and A-level students in Northern Ireland to be awarded predicted grades

As it happened: A-Level and GCSE pupils in England to be given teacher-assessed grades

Mr Williamson has also united Brexit Party chair Richard Tice and former Tory MP Anna Soubry - a staunch Remainer - in believing he should tender his resignation.

Ms Soubry said the education secretary would resign "if he had a scrap of decency," while Mr Tice wrote on Twitter: "If @GavinWilliamson has shred of moral decency in his body he will resign today, as should the leadership of Ofqual.

"A total, unbelievable, chaotic, incompetent, clueless shambles. @BorisJohnson are you up to speed with what’s happened, are you able to show some leadership?"

Mr Williamson's position as a top minister was revived last year after then Prime Minister Theresa May dismissed him as defence secretary for allegedly leaking security discussions.

Elsewhere, the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said he will not back-pedal on his decision to take legal advice against the government until BTEC students also see their result downgrades reversed.

The Labour mayor wrote on Twitter: "I can assure you that I will not be withdrawing my legal action until we have justice for BTEC students too."