Ex-education secretary condemns government's 'most damaging U-turn yet' over A-Levels

18 August 2020, 13:13

Alan Johnson gives his take on the A-level U-turn

Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

A former education secretary has slammed Gavin Williamson and other members of Boris Johnson's cabinet after a Government U-turn over A-Level results.

Alan Johnson, who served as education secretary under Tony Blair, said that "everybody could see" the looming crisis around A-Level grades and condemned the response of the current education secretary and his team.

He said: "Gavin Williamson has special advisors - who are hired to have a political nouse - they should have been thinking of it.

"When they saw what happened to John Swinney in Scotland - the education minister up there who had to do a screeching U-turn - they had notice of this.

"They had a week from there to their announcement, but I think this is very much down to ministers."

It follows a major U-turn by the education secretary after outrage over an algorithm that downgraded thousands of students unfairly.

Mr Johnson labelled the U-turn the "most damaging" so far, following several major U-turns throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

"There's nothing wrong with governments U-turning... but they've become so consistent and on this issue it follows the view of people that education has been at the bottom of the list of priorities through this terrible Covid crisis," he said.

"It comes after Marcus Rashford, after failing to get schools opened as schools on the continent managed to do in the rest of Europe, and I think in that sense it's far more damaging."

Alan Johnson slammed the Government over its latest U-turn
Alan Johnson slammed the Government over its latest U-turn. Picture: LBC/PA Images

Yesterday, the Government and the head of Ofqual apologised for the "distress" caused to students and announced that grades would be reverted back to teachers' original predictions, despite Mr Williamson's concerns of the false inflation of grades.

Mr Johnson, however, said the education secretary was wrong to pay more attention to grade inflation than inconsistencies with the grading system.

"This idea which Gavin Williamson was talking about - that it would disadvantage pupils in future years - I just don't understand that," he added.

He also attacked Boris Johnson's choice of cabinet ministers - and his decision to promote Mr Williamson after he was sacked as foreign secretary under Theresa May for allegedly revealing national security information.

"When you think back to that first cabinet meeting after the election - which Boris Johnson won very convincingly - but then they all had to parrot the same stuff.

"That just made me feel rather queasy because the cabinet is there to challenge as well as being loyal outside the cabinet room."

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