Gavin Williamson facing calls for 'clarity' after A-level and GCSE results U-turn

18 August 2020, 06:31

Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson in his office at the Department of Education in Westminster, London, following the announcement that A-level and GCSE results in England will now be based on teachers' assessments of their students
Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson in his office at the Department of Education in Westminster, London, following the announcement that A-level and GCSE results in England will now be based on teachers' assessments of their students. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is facing calls from Labour to give students, parents and universities "clarity" over a series of issues around exam results.

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.

Mr Williamson initially committed to an algorithm from the exam regulator Ofqual being used to work out grades, bu now students will get their predicted results if hey are higher.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer branded the Tory handling of the situation as "incompetent."

The policy reversal came after the Education Secretary previously defended the system as "robust" and almost 40 per cent of A-level grades were reduced from teachers' predictions.

Wriing in the Daily Mirror the Labour leader said the U-turn "sums up their handling of this pandemic - incompetent".

"At a time of national emergency, this is no way to run a country," he added.

"The Tories' incompetence is holding Britain back from recovery."

Shadow education secretary Kate Green has written to Mr Williamson with 15 questions, including asking when students will receive their new grades and whether there will still be a free appeals process.

She welcomed the Government having "finally reversed its position" after mounting calls from students, teachers and Conservative MPs.

"However, the confusion of the past few weeks, and delay in making these important decisions, mean there are now important outstanding issues on which students, parents and institutions need urgent clarity," she added.

Whether students who have accepted an offer based on their moderated grades can switch institutions and how universities will be supported by the move to scrap the temporary limit on places were among her queries.

She also called for Mr Williamson to confirm no universities will be "allowed to fail financially" as a result of the changes and for the Cabinet minister to set out the position for BTEC students' grades.

In a statement, the Labour MP added: "This was a welcome and necessary change in policy, but we should never have been in this position as the government has had months to get this right.

"The delay and chaos accompanying means that students, families, and education providers have no answers to essential questions."

Mr Williamson on Monday apologised for "the distress" caused to students and their parents and said it became clear over the weekend that action was needed after Ofqual released additional data about its algorithm.

There were widespread concerns the move to base results partly on schools' past performances would have a greater negative impact on bright pupils and disadvantaged schools.

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