Mon, 27 May 2024

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
Raising attainment and alleviating challenges in schools Partner content
Addressing the teacher recruitment and retention crisis Partner content
Press releases

Downgraded A-Level and GCSE results ditched as Gavin Williamson U-turns on grade algorithm

Gavin Williamson had said he would not U-turn on the moderation system for results (PA)

5 min read

The controversial algorithm used to calculate this summer’s A-Level and GCSE grades has been ditched and replaced by teacher assessments amid a major backlash.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson apologised to pupils after being forced into a humiliating U-turn following his defence of the controversial moderation system last week.

He said he realised over the weekend there were "unfairnesses" within the grades system and “it became evident that further action needed to be taken”.

In a statement on Monday afternoon the exam regulator Ofqual said “after reflection” it has decided the best way forward is “to award grades on the basis of what teachers submitted”.

After admitting it has “caused real anguish and damaged public confidence”, students will either get the result they were predicted "or the moderated grade, whichever is higher".

Ofqual chairman Roger Taylor said: “We understand this has been a distressing time for students, who were awarded exam results last week for exams they never took. The pandemic has created circumstances no one could have ever imagined or wished for. 

“We want to now take steps to remove as much stress and uncertainty for young people as possible - and to free up heads and teachers to work towards the important task of getting all schools open in two weeks.

“After reflection, we have decided that the best way to do this is to award grades on the basis of what teachers submitted. 

“The switch to centre assessment grades will apply to both AS and A levels and to the GCSE results which students will receive later this week.”


It follows the decision by the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments to scrap the moderated grades, after accusations they were unfairly affecting pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

And there had been a growing backlash from senior Tory MPs against the computer-generated grades handed out to A-Level students last week after the real exams were cancelled due to coronavirus.

Mr Williamson, who is facing pressure to resign over the fiasco, said: "This has been an extraordinarily difficult year for young people who were unable to take their exams.

"We worked with Ofqual to construct the fairest possible model, but it is clear that the process of allocating grades has resulted in more significant inconsistencies than can be resolved through an appeals process.

"We now believe it is better to offer young people and parents certainty by moving to teacher assessed grades for both A and AS level and GCSE results.

"I am sorry for the distress this has caused young people and their parents but hope this announcement will now provide the certainty and reassurance they deserve."

Speaking in a televised interview, the Education Secretary said: "When it became apparent there were unfairnesses within the system, it was the right thing to act.

"Over the weekend it became clearer to me that there were a number of students who were getting grades that frankly they shouldn't have been getting and should've been doing a lot better.

"And the evidence both from Ofqual and other external bodies was apparent that action needed to be taken.”

He added: "As we looked in greater detail over Saturday and Sunday it became evident that further action needed to be taken."

And Mr Taylor said in his statement: “Expecting schools to submit appeals where grades were incorrect placed a burden on teachers when they need to be preparing for the new term and has created uncertainty and anxiety for students. 

“For all of that, we are extremely sorry.”

He added: “We have therefore decided that students be awarded their centre assessment for this summer - that is, the grade their school or college estimated was the grade they would most likely have achieved in their exam - or the moderated grade, whichever is higher.”

Seizing on the U-turn, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “The Government has had months to sort out exams and has now been forced into a screeching U-turn after days of confusion.

“This is a victory for the thousands of young people who have powerfully made their voices heard this past week.”


The change of tack followed mounting pressure from senior Conservatives, including Education Committee chairman Rob Halfon and former education secretary Lord Baker.

Tory MP and former minister George Freeman told Times Radio that he welcomed the apology and shift from Mr Williamson.

But he said: “This has been a total shambles. 

“And for anyone with one foot outside the department in the real world it looked completely obvious what should have be done.”

Mr Freeman refused to say if the Education Secretary should quit, but he added: “I think a generation of children, parents, pupils, teachers and schools’ confidence in our ability to handle the education of a generation has been hit hard, and the Secretary of Education and all of those involved have got a lot of work to do to restore that confidence.”

PoliticsHome Newsletters

PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by Alain Tolhurst - Tory MP Says BNP Is A Better Fit For Natalie Elphicke Than Labour