PM urged to consider delaying GCSE results amid mounting A-level anger


Senior Conservative MPs are calling on Boris Johnson to consider delaying the publication of this week’s GCSE results until the problems with A-levels have been resolved.

The prime minister is under pressure to intervene to end the deepening A-levels crisis in England, amid growing anger among pupils, teachers and MPs, including from his own party.

The same controversial algorithm that was used to determine last Thursday’s A-level results is being used to dish out GCSE grades this week, sparking fears that millions of pupils could see their marks downgraded, after the coronavirus outbreak cancelled exams.

The exams themselves were cancelled because of the coronavirus epidemic

How the A-level algorithm works

It has now been suggested by a senior Conservative MP that the government may need to delay publishing GCSE results until it can be sure the grading system is fair.

Robert Halfon, chair of the House of Commons Education Committee, told Sky News that the government needed to consider the possibility “pretty quickly”.

He said exams regulator Ofqual “needs to convince schools” over the next few days that its algorithm “is fair” and that the government must consider whether the exams system is “fair and robust”, otherwise confidence in GCSEs “will be undermined”.

“We need… a fairer, wider appeals system, that anyone who feels that their grade is unfair is able to appeal… with a very fast turnaround,” he added.

More from A-levels

Mr Halfon also said that “the last six months have been a national disaster for millions of children”, and that attainment gaps will grow as a result of the pandemic.

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It came after former Conservative education secretary Lord Baker, who introduced the GCSE system in the late 1980s, said that GCSE results should be delayed for two weeks, due to the algorithm.

“The A-level results have produced hundreds of thousands of unfair and barely explicable downgrades,” he said in a statement.

“They have helped smaller private schools but hit the brighter students in a poorly performing state school. It is not surprising that various parties are considering legal actions.

“If you are in a hole, stop digging.”

Students angry about A Level results being downgraded hold demonstrations in Cardiff and London

‘Meaningless grades mean stolen futures’

However, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Ofqual are reportedly at odds with each other over the best way to proceed.

The Telegraph says that senior figures in Ofqual want the government to U-turn on the results, and allow students to be awarded their predicted grades.

Mr Williamson has repeatedly pushed back on using predicted grades, over fears that it could lead to grade-inflation and devalue the results.

Around 280,000 students in England saw their A-level grades fall by one grade or more from their predicted results following the introduction of a new “moderation” algorithm, which was put in place after the coronavirus lockdown led to exams being cancelled.

Further confusion was added to the row on Saturday night when Ofqual withdrew its criteria for mock exam results to be considered as the basis of an appeal, saying it was reviewing the policy.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended the A-level results announced in England as 'robust and reliable'

PM defends A-level results as ‘robust’

The Department for Education (DfE) has since attempted to reassure students over how the appeals process will work as many of them lost university places due to their grades being lowered.

In a statement late on Sunday, a DfE spokesman said: “Hundreds of thousands of students have received a calculated grade that will enable them to progress to the next stage of their education or into work.”

Sir Keir Starmer

Starmer: ‘This has been a disaster’

Labour claimed the A-level results row was a “fiasco turning from tragedy to farce” as they called on the prime minister to “get a grip”.

The party’s leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted on Sunday: “Weeks of chaos, confusion and incompetence. We need a return to teacher assessments for A-level results and urgent action to avoid the same injustice for GCSE students.

“Boris Johnson has been invisible during this crisis. He needs to take personal responsibility, and fix it.”

Maia was marked down by five grades from what she was predicted

‘It’s like being handed four random letters’

Meanwhile, campaigners have promised to begin High Court proceedings against Mr Williamson and Ofqual this week unless they perform a climbdown on the use of the algorithm.

Jolyon Maugham QC, who heads the Good Law Project, told Sky News on Sunday: “This morning we sent a letter to Ofqual, copying in Gavin Williamson.”

He said the letter points out the lack of a “meaningful appeal system for individual students is unlawful”, the system “is so unfair as also to be unlawful” and that Ofqual has a “statutory obligation to ensure that accurate grades are delivered”.

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