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Boris Johnson won’t postpone GCSE results — but A-Level U-turn expected amid mounting Tory anger

There have been calls for education secretary Gavin Williamson to resign over the fiasco (PA)

3 min read

Number 10 has ruled out postponing Thursday’s GCSE results amid growing anger from senior Tories about the A-Level marking fiasco.

But Conservative MPs are expecting an announcement from Ofqual and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson this afternoon on the algorithm used to moderate scores, which resulted in thousands of pupils having their predicted A-level outcomes downgraded after exams were cancelled.

It follows a weekend of chaos over the appeals process and calls to ditch last week’s results and revert to teachers’ predictions.

A spokesman for Boris Johnson confirmed he is currently on holiday in Scotland, but said he had spoken to Mr Williamson and "senior officials” on Monday morning.

Number 10 also said the Prime Minister has confidence in the Cabinet minister and Ofqual chief Sally Collier despite calls for them both to resign.

The announcement from Mr Williamson is expected to cover both last week's A-level results and this Thursday's GCSEs, with Downing Street repeatedly refusing to rule out the possibility of a U-turn.

Asked if the moderation system will be abandoned, a spokesman said: "I will have to repeat the whole of Government will continue to work hard to come up with the fairest system possible."

But they did categorically rule out delaying GCSE results, which a number of the Conservative party's own MPs — including Sir Graham Brady, head of the 1922 committee — had called for.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the algorithm-awarded A Level grades should be abandoned in favour of teacher assessments, a move former ministers Tracey Crouch and Jake Berry have also advocated.

Senior backbencher Sir Edward Leigh said he had written to Education Minister Nick Gibb about the "clear injustice" faced by some students, while education select committee chairman Robert Halfon told TalkRADIO: "Ofqual needs to stop behaving like cardinals at the Vatican, shrouded in secrecy, and actually come out and communicate.”


Former minister Stephen Hammond, who has written to the Department for Education to demand a rethink, told Sky News the situation had descended “very rapidly from some clarity into a shambles”.

He said: “I think what is clear now is that by the end of today that there needs to be an appeals process that is fair, resolves matters quickly and is simple and transparent to understand, so that we can help all those people who feel just distressed, frustrated by the grades they've been given.”

Seizing on the row, Labour’s shadow universities minister Emma Hardy said: “This chaos cannot continue. 

“Even Tory ministers know that they are presiding over a historic injustice that risks robbing a generation of their future.

“Boris Johnson needs to listen to parents, teachers and young people - and change course.”

And the Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, said: “Having looked at the evidence, it seems clear to me that GCSE results this year should be based on centre assessment grades - not the algorithm developed by Ofqual.”


Mr Williamson on Wednesday announced that all A-level grades in England would be protected by a so-called “triple lock”.

This guaranteed students could accept their calculated grade from regulator Ofqual, which determined results using a statistical model after exams were cancelled, appeal on the basis of a valid mock result, or resit their exams in the autumn. 

Ofqual then published guidance this weekend saying that for a mock assessment to be considered “valid” it had to have been taken in exam-style conditions prior to the closure of schools, constitute a closed paper not available to students prior to sitting, and marked using exam board marking schemes. 

But the new guidance was withdrawn just eight hours later for “review”, prompting fresh anger from politicians and education leaders.

Speaking last week, the Education Secretary told Times Radio: “We're not going to be changing this system again."

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