Top Tories call for postponement of GCSE results after A-level fiasco

Will GCSE results be delayed TWO WEEKS? Top Tories call on Boris Johnson to postpone marks due out this Thursday – as A-level grade confusion drags on with a U-turn on appeals and lawsuits by pupils

  • Lord Baker said Thursday’s GCSE results reveal should be delayed by two weeks
  • The Tory who introduced the GCSE system described the algorithm as flawed
  • Education committee chairman Robert Halfon said delays may be necessary 

Boris Johnson was last night facing calls to delay this week’s GCSE results as the exam fiasco worsened.

He is facing growing anger from his own party over the ‘huge mess’ surrounding the A-level results of millions of teenagers.

Lord Baker, who introduced the GCSE system, said Thursday’s results announcement should be delayed by two weeks to allow the grades to be revised.

It is feared that millions of pupils could see their scores downgraded by a government algorithm used to allocate marks after exams were cancelled due to coronavirus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced calls to delay this week’s GCSE results on Sunday night as the exam fiasco worsened. Pictured: Students hold up signs including one reading 'A* in Classism, Get rid of Gavin' outside the Department of Education in London on Sunday

Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced calls to delay this week’s GCSE results on Sunday night as the exam fiasco worsened. Pictured: Students hold up signs including one reading ‘A* in Classism, Get rid of Gavin’ outside the Department of Education in London on Sunday

Lord Baker described the algorithm that predicted A-level results as flawed and accused ministers of presiding over a system that had already produced ‘hundreds of thousands of unfair and barely explicable downgrades’. Pictured: Benita Stipp (centre) and Mimi Ferguson (left) react as students at Norwich School, Norwich, receive their A-Level results on Thursday

Lord Baker described the algorithm that predicted A-level results as flawed and accused ministers of presiding over a system that had already produced ‘hundreds of thousands of unfair and barely explicable downgrades’. Pictured: Benita Stipp (centre) and Mimi Ferguson (left) react as students at Norwich School, Norwich, receive their A-Level results on Thursday 

Calls grew for official A-level results to be scrapped in favour of teacher-assessed grades – as in Scotland. Pictured: Pupils check their classes as they return to St Paul's High School in Glasgow, Scotland, for the first time since the start of the coronavirus lockdown on Wednesday

Calls grew for official A-level results to be scrapped in favour of teacher-assessed grades – as in Scotland. Pictured: Pupils check their classes as they return to St Paul’s High School in Glasgow, Scotland, for the first time since the start of the coronavirus lockdown on Wednesday

The Prime Minister is facing growing anger from his own party over the ‘huge mess’ surrounding the A-level results of millions of teenagers. Pictured: A girl holds up a sign reading 'Gavin Williamson Destroying our Future' while another holds up a sign saying 'judge potential not postcode'

The Prime Minister is facing growing anger from his own party over the ‘huge mess’ surrounding the A-level results of millions of teenagers. Pictured: A girl holds up a sign reading ‘Gavin Williamson Destroying our Future’ while another holds up a sign saying ‘judge potential not postcode’

Lord Baker described the algorithm as flawed and accused ministers of presiding over a system that had already produced ‘hundreds of thousands of unfair and barely explicable downgrades’. 

He added: ‘If you are in a hole, stop digging.’

Robert Halfon, chairman of the Commons education committee, also conceded a delay might be necessary.

‘Unless they have fair appeals and unless [exams regulator] Ofqual make clear their model won’t disadvantage unfairly, then perhaps this is one route they may need to consider,’ said the Conservative MP.

Labour urged the Prime Minister, who is due to go on holiday to Scotland this week, to take personal charge and ‘get a grip’ on the issue.

Lord Baker, who introduced the GCSE system, said Thursday’s results announcement should be delayed by two weeks to allow the grades to be revised. Pictured:  Students wearing coronavirus face masks hold up signs saying 'sack Tory exam cheats' while calling for the Education Secretary to be sacked

Lord Baker, who introduced the GCSE system, said Thursday’s results announcement should be delayed by two weeks to allow the grades to be revised. Pictured:  Students wearing coronavirus face masks hold up signs saying ‘sack Tory exam cheats’ while calling for the Education Secretary to be sacked

It is feared that millions of pupils could see their scores downgraded by a government algorithm used to allocate marks after exams were cancelled due to coronavirus

It is feared that millions of pupils could see their scores downgraded by a government algorithm used to allocate marks after exams were cancelled due to coronavirus

The Government had promised a so-called ‘triple lock’ policy to allow unhappy pupils to appeal. But last night the details were mired in confusion.

As furious Tory MPs bombarded party whips to complain about the mishandling of the issue:

  • Ministers faced warnings that Thursday’s results will be even more controversial than the A-level grading
  • Calls grew for official A-level results to be scrapped in favour of teacher-assessed grades – as in Scotland
  • Students burned their exam results outside the Department for Education and demanded that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson resign
  • It emerged that the Ofqual chairman had chaired a body that warned algorithms could be ‘harmful’
  • Two legal challenges to the A-level results were launched against the algorithm used by the regulator
  • Three Oxford colleges vowed to give places to all offer holders even if they missed their grades

Ofqual issued guidance on Saturday setting out the criteria for students to make appeals on the basis of their mock exam results, only for it to be take down hours later. 

In a brief statement it said the policy was ‘being reviewed’ by its board and that further information would be released ‘in due course’.

Ministers faced warnings that Thursday’s results will be even more controversial than the A-level grading

Ministers faced warnings that Thursday’s results will be even more controversial than the A-level grading

The extraordinary reversal caught the Department for Education completely on the hop.

Lord Baker, who brought in GCSEs in 1988, said: ‘I urge the Education Secretary to instruct Ofqual not to release the GCSE results this Thursday as their algorithm is flawed. 

‘The A-level results have produced hundreds of thousands of unfair and barely explicable downgrades.

‘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.

‘The GCSE results should be postponed for two weeks. The Government can then decide either to accept the predicted grades or invite heads to resubmit new predictions which should not exceed 3 per cent of their performance in 2019.’

It has emerged that the Ofqual chairman had chaired a body that warned algorithms could be ‘harmful’

It has emerged that the Ofqual chairman had chaired a body that warned algorithms could be ‘harmful’ 

On the A-level appeals fiasco, Mr Halfon said: ‘That is a huge mess. Goodness knows what is going on at Ofqual. It is the last thing we need at this time. 

‘This is just unacceptable. Students and teachers are incredibly anxious – particularly the students who are worried about their future.

‘This has got to be sorted out. Ofqual shouldn’t put things on websites, take them away, sow confusion. This is just not on and it has got to be changed.’

Tory MP Robert Syms called on the Government to scrap the algorithm and return to teachers’ predicted grades. 

‘I have spoken to a lot of Tory MPs and I haven’t found one who hasn’t remonstrated with the whips about how this has been handled,’ he said. ‘People voted for Boris to run the country, not an algorithm.’

Students burned their exam results outside the Department for Education and demanded that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson resign

Students burned their exam results outside the Department for Education and demanded that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson resign

Another Conservative MP said the party WhatsApp group was full of fury, with many MPs warnign of a ‘shambles’. Ruth Davidson, the former Scottish Tory leader, said Mr Williamson’s algorithm system went against every sense of ‘natural fairness’.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, tweeted: ‘The PM needs to get a grip and hold a press conference in the next 24 hours on what he and the hapless Education Secretary are going to do to stop this chaos.’

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, urged the Government to go back to teacher assessments ‘to stop the chaos, rather than prolong this nightmare.’ 

Downing Street and the Department for Education did not respond last night when asked if they were considering delaying GCSE results day.

A No 10 spokesman said that Mr Johnson had full confidence in all members of his Cabinet. 

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