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England follows Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in U-turn on downgraded exam results

England's education secretary Gavin Williamson - Image credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images

England follows Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in U-turn on downgraded exam results

England has followed Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in a U-turn on the controversial algorithm used to calculate exam grades.

The algorithm used to work out this summer’s A-Level and GCSE grades has been dropped and replaced by teacher assessments.

England’s education secretary, Gavin Williamson, apologised to pupils after being forced into a U-turn following his defence of the controversial moderation system last week.

He said he realised over the weekend there were “unfairnesses” within the grades system and “it became evident that further action needed to be taken”.

In a statement on Monday afternoon the English exam regulator Ofqual said that “after reflection” it has decided the best way forward is “to award grades on the basis of what teachers submitted”.

After admitting it has “caused real anguish and damaged public confidence”, students will either get the result they were predicted “or the moderated grade, whichever is higher”.

Ofqual chairman Roger Taylor said: “We understand this has been a distressing time for students, who were awarded exam results last week for exams they never took.

“The pandemic has created circumstances no one could have ever imagined or wished for. 

“We want to now take steps to remove as much stress and uncertainty for young people as possible – and to free up heads and teachers to work towards the important task of getting all schools open in two weeks.

“After reflection, we have decided that the best way to do this is to award grades on the basis of what teachers submitted.”

It follows the decision by the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments to scrap the moderated grades after accusations they were unfairly affecting pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Williamson is facing pressure to resign over his handling of the marking, after a YouGov survey found that 40 per cent of the public think he should go, with just one in five saying he should remain in his post.

Williamson said: “This has been an extraordinarily difficult year for young people who were unable to take their exams.

“We worked with Ofqual to construct the fairest possible model, but it is clear that the process of allocating grades has resulted in more significant inconsistencies than can be resolved through an appeals process.

“We now believe it is better to offer young people and parents certainty by moving to teacher assessed grades for both A and AS level and GCSE results.

“I am sorry for the distress this has caused young people and their parents but hope this announcement will now provide the certainty and reassurance they deserve.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised the “screeching U-turn”.

He said: “The Government has had months to sort out exams and has now been forced into a screeching U-turn after days of confusion.

“This is a victory for the thousands of young people who have powerfully made their voices heard this past week.”

And the SNP slammed the Conservatives and Labour for “rank hypocrisy” after both parties in Scotland had called for education secretary John Swinney to resign in similar circumstances.

SNP MSP George Adam said: “Labour and the Tories are guilty of rank hypocrisy on this issue, and voters will see them as the opportunists that they are.

“But by playing petty political games with our young people’s future, Labour and the Tories have been left utterly humiliated by the decisions of their party leadership in England and Wales.

“Cancelling this year’s exam diet was a first in over 130 years and Scotland’s education secretary showed real leadership to rectify the issues faced by many pupils. 

“The silence from Douglas Ross and Richard Leonard meanwhile is deafening.”

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