A-Levels: Government makes U-turn after downgrade results ‘fiasco’ comes under fire

Under fire... Boris Johnson who had defended controversial algorithm system for selectiong A-Level g

Under fire... Boris Johnson who had defended controversial algorithm system for selectiong A-Level grades. Picture: Stockshot, Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

Thousands of A-level students are set to see their grades increased after a humiliating U-turn by the Government.

Mayor John Biggs slams Education Secretary (inset) Gavin Williamson's algorithm method that downgrad

Mayor John Biggs slams Education Secretary (inset) Gavin Williamson's algorithm method that downgraded students' A-Level results. Picture: Mike Brooke and (inset) Dept of Education - Credit: Mike Brooke

Grades are now to be based on teachers’ assessments rather than the controversial algorithm devised by the exam regulators.

It follows criticism from students, schools, the teachers’ union and even a backlash by Tory MPs.

The mayor of Tower Hamlets who attacked the method to determine results is working with schools to make sure every student who needs to appeal gets the council’s backing.

“Our young people deserve better,” John Biggs said. “The government failed to provide the clarity needed when introducing this new system of awarding results, creating unnecessary stress and potentially impacting on a young person’s life chances.


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“Our school staff and students have continued to go to amazing lengths to teach and learn in spite of recent (pandemic) events.”

The council has been in contact with all Tower Hamlets head teachers after last Thursday’s A-Level results to make sure concerned students “contact their school or college, or their university admissions office”.

Under fire... Boris Johnson who had defended controversial algorithm system for selectiong A-Level g

Under fire... Boris Johnson who had defended controversial algorithm system for selectiong A-Level grades. Picture: Stockshot, Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

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Prime minister Boris Johnson had previously defended the “robust system” which saw almost four out of every 10 grades reduced from teachers’ predictions.

The PM held crisis talks with his education secretary Gavin Williamson today, following mass protests in central London by thousands of students at the weekend.

The chairman of the exams regulation authority, Roger Taylor, has now publicly apologised for the “uncertainty and anxiety” caused by the fiasco.

He said: “Expecting schools to submit appeals where grades were incorrect placed a burden on teachers when they need to be preparing for the new term, which created uncertainty and anxiety for students. For all of that, we are extremely sorry.”

Teachers slammed the fiasco when their National Education Union called the government’s handling of exam grades a “shameful episode”.

It is now demanding the education secretary lifts the cap on university places so that more A-Level students can continue their studies.

“Young people have suffered enough,” the union’s general secretary Dr Mary Bousted warned. “They have few chances in the jobs market as the country faces rising unemployment and recession.

“This announcement will generate further uncertainty for many students if they’ve been rejected from their first-choice university on the basis of the inaccurate and unjust awarding process.”

Critics have slammed the education department in Whitehall for putting “all the eggs in one basket” through a single set of summer exams, which they said had now come home to roost.

The U-turn also applies to this Thursday’s GCSE results. Those who were awarded higher grades by the moderation process will be allowed to keep them, while for many pupils their teachers’ predictions could see their grades increased.

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