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Department for Education gives full backing to Ofqual over grade fiasco after Gavin Williamson refused to

Gavin Williamson refused to personally express 'confidence' in Sally Collier, the head of Ofqual (PA)

3 min read

The Department for Education has given its full backing to Ofqual over the A-level and GCSE grading controversy after Gavin Williamson repeatedly refused to do so.

The Secretary of State appears to have bowed to pressure and supported England's exams regulator after criticism he was shifting the blame for the results fiasco onto the quango.

On Tuesday the Cabinet minister refused to personally express “confidence” in Sally Collier, the head of Ofqual, simply saying she had worked hard in her position.

He said Ofqual “didn’t deliver the system that we had been reassured... would be in place” after the algorithm used to deliver moderated grades to pupils had to be scrapped in a humiliating U-turn.

And asked on multiple occasions during a media round if he backed her to stay in post, Mr Williamson would only say: “Well we’ve worked with Ofqual and at every stage I know that Ofqual have done absolutely everything they can do to ensure that they have fairness within the system and continue to work with Ofqual, and the head of Ofqual, to ensure that we deliver youngsters with grades they deserve.”

But he was accused of “scapegoating” officials after it was reported Jonathan Slater, the permanent secretary at the Department for Education, could face the sack.

In response, the Department for Education published a statement on Wednesday morning saying: "As the Government has made clear, we have full confidence in Ofqual and its leadership in their role as independent regulator and we continue to work closely with Ofqual to deliver fair results for our young people at this unprecedented time.

"The decision they took to move from moderated grades to centre assessed grades was one that we agreed with.

"Our focus remains on working with Ofqual to ensure students receive their final GCSE, AS level and A-level results this week so that they can move on to the next stage of their lives.”

Earlier Health Secretary Matt Hancock said sacking Mr Williamson would only “distract” from the task of re-opening all schools next month.

He told Sky News: “These are unprecedented circumstances and I think everybody is working their hardest and trying to do their best in very difficult circumstances and I know that is true of Gavin Williamson as it is of all members of the government.

“The big focus is on getting schools back and open at the start of next month, an incredibly important task. I don’t think we should be distracted from that task now. We need to absolutely focus on it.”

Mr Williamson is currently favourite with the bookmakers to be the next person to leave the Cabinet, but The Telegraph reports Boris Johnson will not hold a full reshuffle this autumn and that he may stay in post until the new year.

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