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Sun, 27 September 2020

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Boris Johnson apologises to pupils for 'distress' caused by exam results fiasco

Boris Johnson apologises to pupils for 'distress' caused by exam results fiasco

A Number 10 spokesperson said the PM was 'of course sorry' for the exam fiasco (PA)

3 min read

Boris Johnson has apologised to English school children for the "distress" caused by his government's handling of exam results.

A Downing Street spokesperson said Mr Johnson was "of course sorry" for the mismanagement of England's exam system which saw thousands of pupils' A-level and GCSE grades downgraded before ministers were forced to U-turn on the policy.

The Prime Minister, who had faced criticism for going on holiday to Scotland during the exam crisis, has now stepped in to lead the back-to-school push, saying it is "vitally important" for children to return to the classroom in September.

But speaking on Monday, a spokesperson for Mr Johnson said the PM wished to echo recent apologies made by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson for the "distress and anger" caused to pupils.

"As the Education Secretary set out and we’ve said a few times now we’re of course sorry for any distress and anger that’s felt by students around the awarding of exam results this year," they said.

"The Education Secretary acknowledged it was a difficult time and apologised for the distress caused. Our focus has been and continues to be ensuring that students can move onto the next stage of their lives and ensuring all kids go back to school in September."

And asked if Mr Johnson was personally sorry about the handling of exams, the spokesperson added: "The PM is of course sorry for any distress that has been caused.

"As I say our focus has been and will be ensuring that students can move on to the next phase and ensuring kids can get back to school next week."

The comments come amid fresh anger at the embattled Education Secretary after it was reported he had cancelled an important meeting in the run up to exam day because he was on holiday.

On Sunday, Mr Williamson revealed he had visited family in Scarborough just days before A-level results were announced, but insisted he was in "constant communication" with his department.

Fellow education minister Gillian Keegan had also faced criticism for taking a trip to France during the crisis, posting pictures on Instagram of her taking hiking trips, bike rides and swimming in mountain lakes.

But asked if Number 10 had given prior approval for the jaunts, the spokesperson said: "The Education Secretary has addressed this himself so I’ve got nothing to add to that."

They added: "He set out that he went back to see his family in Scarborough and remained in constant contact with the department [for education].

"Similarly DfE and other bodies involved have worked non-stop and continue to do so to make sure that kids can go back to school next week."

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