A Levels fiasco: Gavin Williamson ordered to act to repair damage ‘fighting for his job’

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Robert Oulds, director of the Bruges Group think tank, said Mr Williamson, who has offered an apology to young people up and down England, was fighting for his job – and said it was now critical for him to make amends. Mr Oulds also pointed the finger at the Department for Education, deploying Michael Gove’s famous 1950s B movie analogy by saying students had been “robbed by The Blob”. And he also contrasted the situation faced by poorer students compared with those at top public schools – for example Eton.

Robert Oulds, director of the Bruges Group think tank, said Mr Williamson, who has offered an apology to young people up and down England, was fighting for his job – and said it was now critical for him to make amends. Mr Oulds also pointed the finger at the Department for Education, deploying Michael Gove’s famous 1950s B movie analogy by saying students had been “robbed by The Blob”. And he also contrasted the situation faced by poorer students compared with those at top public schools – for example Eton.

Examinations watchdog Ofqual has estimated teachers in England had almost 40 percent of their A-level assessments – amounting to 280,000 results – downgraded by its algorithm.

Mr Oulds, whose organisation is a staunch advocate of Brexit, told Express.co.uk: “The school grading fiasco has caused a clamour of calls for Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to resign.

“This is unfair, but as the buck stops with him, Williamson must act swiftly to repair the damage.”

Mr Oulds said: “The downgrading of 40 percent of pupils has particularly hit those of lower socio-economic background, while posh schools such as Eton can rest on their laurels.

“Historic social class disadvantages and institutional bias should be tackled rather than perpetuated by a Conservative government that promised to level up the north and midlands with the more privileged south. The Red Wall expects.”

The grading algorithm needed to be adjusted to give a fairer account of the hard work of people from provincial areas, Mr Oulds said.

With GCSEs out next week, and two million results expected to be similarly downgraded, the pressure on Mr Williamson is unlikely to ease any time soon.

Mr Oulds said: “It is crucial that Williamson acts. He has come under sustained attack from The Blob, and his mission to improve standards in schools must not be derailed.”

Mr Gove compared the DfE to the monster in the 1958 sci fi classic starring Steve McQueen over perceived similarities between its army of bureaucrats and the creature in question, which terrorises a small town in Pennsylvania.

He said: “Williamson has important work to do, including reforming universities and defending academic freedom from ideological puritanism.

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“He is fighting for his job and I hope he stays but the best way to guarantee that is to do the right thing and honour the grades. It’s what they did in Scotland.

“Interestingly no grades from Eton have been marked down.”

The lockdown had been particularly hard on young people, stripping away their education and employment opportunities, argued Mr Oulds.

In a message to the Government, he said: “They need to help young people, the social costs of the lockdown and taking away their education and employment opportunities has been bad enough.

“Now hitting their grades with an unfair algorithm has made it even worse.

“The Government risks further harming their prospects with this, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and further alienating the young.

“If he doesn’t reject the algorithm for English students then Scottish students will be attending English universities with A level grades being assessed differently.”

Mr Oulds added: “This algorithm is disadvantaging English pupils and their families

“It’s also against natural justice, given a grade, and a place at Uni then its all robbed away by The Blob.”

The situation for further complicated yesterday after Ofqual suspended its criteria for students hoping to challenge their A-level grades on the basis of their results in mock exams – just hours after publishing them.

An Ofqual spokesman said: “Earlier today we published information about mock exam results in appeals.

“This policy is being reviewed by the Ofqual board and further information will be published in due course.”

Defending Ofqual’s grading method in today’s Sunday Express, Mr Williamson said: “No system that was put in place was going to be able to replicate the exams process.

“But the calculated grade overseen by Ofqual makes certain that everyone can be confident that these qualifications carry the same weight as previous years.

“And our triple lock process means if any young person is unhappy with their result, they can appeal on the basis of a valid mock exam and, in England, have the chance to sit exams in the autumn.”

However, Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said: “The latest chaos is the inevitable consequence of this government’s shambolic approach to exams, which saw solutions dreamt up on the back of a cigarette packet and announced barely a day before young people received their results.”

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