Universities deal with Government climbdown over exams

Gavin Williamson

Universities deal with Government climbdown over exams

Universities are facing chaos this morning (Tuesday) in the fallout from a major Government U-turn on how exams are graded.

They are preparing to deal with a surge in enquiries from students who were rejected last week.

England was yesterday the final UK nation to drop a system of moderated grades and instead mark pupils according to teachers’ predictions – following Scotland, Northern Ireland and then Wales.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told journalists today that he was “incredibly sorry for the distress” caused to thousands of pupils after the U-turn in how A-levels and GCSEs are graded.

But he has refused to say if he intends to resign over the crisis.

“My focus is making sure youngsters get the grades that they deserve,” he told BBC Breakfast.

10 Downing Street has said Boris Johnson, who is on holiday in Scotland, has full confidence in Mr Williamson.

Yesterday’s decision followed an outcry from students, teachers and some Tory MPs.

About 40% of A-level results were downgraded by exams regulator Ofqual, which used a formula based on schools’ prior grades.

Students reacted by holding protests across the UK, calling the grading system unfair, classist and a threat to their future.

Mr Williamson said No 10 had worked with the watchdog to design “the fairest possible model” after exams had to be cancelled due to coronavirus, but it had become clear the process had resulted in “more significant inconsistencies” than could be dealt with by appeals.

The government’s U-turn means teachers’ assessments will also be used for GCSE results, due to be published on Thursday.

It is still unclear what the climbdown will mean for students taking specialist work-related qualifications, known as BTecs. Mr Williamson said he hoped they would also be subject to teacher-assessed grades, adding that the government was working with the “awarding authorities” to ensure this happened.

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