PM blames ‘mutant algorithm’ for A-levels fiasco, then sacks education chief


The top civil servant at the Department for Education will leave next month after Boris Johnson “concluded that there is a need for fresh official leadership”.

Following the controversy over the awarding of A-level grades this month, Jonathan Slater will stand down as permanent secretary at the department on 1 September.

He is the second top official to leave their job over the A-levels “fiasco”, after it was announced on Tuesday that Ofqual’s chief regulator Sally Collier would depart her position.

In the wake of widespread anger this month, the Department for Education was forced to ditch a controversial algorithm and instead allow A-level and GCSE grades to be based on teachers’ predictions.

The “moderation” algorithm, designed by Ofqual, meant around 280,000 students in England saw their A-level grades fall by one grade or more from their predicted results.

The algorithm, used following the cancellation of this year’s exams due to the coronavirus pandemic, was claimed to have disproportionately penalised students from schools in disadvantaged communities.

Announcing Mr Slater’s departure on Wednesday, the Cabinet Office said in a statement: “The prime minister has concluded that there is a need for fresh official leadership at the Department for Education.

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“Jonathan Slater has therefore agreed that he will stand down on 1 September, in advance of the end of his tenure in spring 2021.

“Susan Acland-Hood, currently interim second permanent secretary, will take over as acting permanent secretary.

“A permanent successor to replace Jonathan Slater will be appointed in the coming weeks.

“The cabinet secretary would like to put on record his thanks to Jonathan for 35 years of public service, culminating in over four years as permanent secretary of the Department for Education.”

Despite the departures of Mr Slater and Ms Collier in the wake of the A-levels controversy, the prime minister has stood by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Mr Williamson this week refused to comment on reports he offered his resignation to Mr Johnson but had it turned down.

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