Tories forced to U-turn on downgraded results

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A-Level students demonstrate their anger on Sunday at the Tory government’s downgrading of their exam results

‘WE REALISE that we had taken the wrong road and that we needed to change course,’ Roger Taylor, chair of The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) which regulates qualifications, admitted yesterday, announcing the government has capitulated, forced to make a complete U-turn over A-level grades.

As of now all A-level students will be awarded the grades predicted by their teachers rather than the grades awarded by Ofqual.

Tory Education Minister Gavin Williamson said he was ‘sorry for the distress this has caused pupils and their parents.’

Forty per cent of A-level results were downgraded after the exams regulator used an algorithm based on schools’ previous results. Furious students protested over the weekend after their hopes of going to university were crushed by the Tory decision to ignore their teachers’ predicted grades and instead use a mathematical equation.

The government has been facing a growing backlash from Conservative backbenchers too, with at least 17 MPs criticising the system.

During the day yesterday, the administration in the north of Ireland, followed by Scotland and then Wales, all said that teachers’ assessments would be taken as students’ grades rather than the Ofqual algorithm.

This would have meant that only English students would have suffered the downgrading of their results.

After the immense pressure, by 4.00pm the government had caved in and announced the U-turn.

This however has come too late for many students who have already lost the chance of going to their first choice university as courses have already filled up, or indeed of going to university at all.

University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘Too many students have had their futures turned upside down because of the mess caused by this government. The political incompetence is unforgivable and there are still many questions to be answered. If he had listened to us and the other voices calling for him to use teacher-predicted grades earlier he could have saved us from a weekend of chaos and confusion.’

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: ‘Students and their teachers have endured days of completely unnecessary stress and worry. For many students, this announcement will generate further uncertainty if they have been rejected from their first-choice course and university, on the basis of the inaccurate and unjust Ofqual awarding process.

‘Young people have suffered enough. They have few chances in the jobs market as the country faces rising unemployment and recession. Gavin Williamson should now announce that the cap on university places is lifted, so that more young people, who have worked so hard for their A-levels, can continue their studies and fulfil their potential.

‘One of many lessons for government to learn from this sorry saga is to listen to the profession.

‘The Department for Education’s determination to put all eggs in one basket through a single set of summer exams has come back to haunt them. It is very much a disaster of their own making.

‘This is a shameful episode. It must never happen again. The U-turn in Scotland includes a long-term review of the assessment methods used to award qualifications, including the possibility of more coursework and systematic, moderated teacher assessment, and it is critical that the same occurs in England.

‘We not only need a careful and systematic review, but an absolute assurance to next year’s GCSE and A-level students that this cannot and will not happen again.’

Labour leader Keir Starmer said this was a victory for young people adding: ‘The government has had months to sort out exams and has now been forced into a screeching U-turn.’