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Keir Starmer demands Scottish-style U-turn on A-levels ‘fiasco’ after results downgraded

The Labour leader said pupils hit by the downgrades ‘need action in days, not weeks‘. (PA)

3 min read

Keir Starmer has called on the UK Government to copy Scotland and rip up a “fatally flawed” new system used for grading A-levels after hundreds of thousands of results were downgraded.

The Labour leader said “no young person should be at a detriment due to Government incompetence” in the wake of exams being called off amid the coronavirus pandemic.

And he is calling for teacher-assessed grades to be used in “days, not weeks” as the opposition demanded a shift ahead of the publication of GCSE results next week.

A-level results released on Thursday show that 35.6% of marks in England were adjusted down by one grade, with a further 3.3% downgraded by two grades and 0.2% reduced by three grades.

An estimated 280,000 grades were impacted by the 'standardisation' model which saw examiners apply schools' historic performance to predictions provided by teachers in an effort to maintain consistency with previous results.

“Young people and parents right across the country, in every town and city, feel let down and betrayed" - Sir Keir Starmer

The Scottish Government this week bowed to protests over the way grades have been calculated there, with Scottish results to now be based on teachers’ predicted grades without an additional moderating process.

In a bid to stave off a similar row in England, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said students would now be allowed to appeal their moderated grades to request the use of mock exam results if required.

They can also choose to take exams in the autumn instead if they believe their moderated grades are unfair as part of a "triple lock" policy.

But he has ruled out a further change in the policy, saying on Thursday: "We're not going to be changing this system again."

However, Sir Keir said: “Across the last twenty four hours we have heard heartbreaking stories and the scale of the injustice caused by the fatally flawed results system has become clear.
“Young people and parents right across the country, in every town and city, feel let down and betrayed.”

The Labour leader also hit out at schools minister Nick Gibb for saying that grade adjustments downwards would be “by just one grade”, with around 24,000 grades shift downwards by more than one mark.

Sir Keir said: “Claims from the Schools Minister this week were grossly misleading.

“The unprecedented and chaotic circumstances created by the UK Government’s mishandling of education during recent months mean that a return to teacher assessments is now the best option available.

"No young person should be at a detriment due to Government incompetence.”

He added: “Time is running out. We need action in days, not weeks. That also means an urgent technical review of the standardisation model ahead of GCSE results next week. We need to end this fiasco.”


Defending the Government’s action on Thursday morning, the Education Secretary said the “triple lock” system allowing appeals or resits would “put its arm around those youngsters where there has been a grade that is unfair on them” and help “to put that right”.

He added: "We do have to have checks and balances within the awarding of grades.

"And we can't be in a situation where there aren't those checks and balances.

"Because you will see situations where quite simply, if you don't have those checks and balances in there, there's going to be even greater unfairness to students, especially to those schools and youngsters who absolutely followed the rules to the absolute letter.

"And they will be the ones who will be disadvantaged if we were to change the system again."

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