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.

Professor Tina Isaacs, who sits on regulator Ofqual’s advisory group, warned that Thursday, when GCSE results are due to be released, could see ‘another wave’ of grades that do not reflect those given by teachers.

‘Ofqual’s role is to carry out Government policy. And when policy shifts every 12 to 24 hours, Ofqual then has to deal with it as best as it can,’ she told BBC Breakfast.

‘Hence the changes to the appeals process, which now Ofqual has taken off the board so that it can give as much consideration to it as possible given the timeframe.

‘The GCSE results are due out on Thursday, so we’re going to have another wave of potentially, not marked down, but potentially student grades that do not reflect the grades their teachers gave them.’

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’

It comes as several leading Conservative politicians piled pressure on Boris Johnson ahead of this week’s GCSE results. 

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.

Poole MP Sir Robert Syms added that he would be ‘happy’ for GCSE students to be awarded their teacher-assessed grades and that ‘most Conservative MPs would be’.

He added: ‘A number of these students have been working since March very hard, not only in preparation for if exams had happened but still doing coursework, and a lot of that would be a very good indication of their true ability.

‘And what the appeal process should do is take into every account these young people are not an exam board number, they are real people who deserve fairness and a chance to have their futures put in a solid position very quickly.’

Paymaster General and Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt said she was ‘seeking a further meeting today’ with the Department for Education after speaking with students and parents about exam results.

‘I will be supporting colleges in their appeals, working to ensure those who have the grades on appeal can go to uni this year if that is what they want,’ she tweeted.

‘This group of young people have lost out on so much already, we must ensure that bright, capable students can progress on their next step. Delaying a year won’t be an option, and it shouldn’t be an option. For many it will mean falling out of education.’

Ms Mordaunt added: ‘I have also made my views on GCSE results known to DfE. Will be posting updates later today.’

David Laws, executive chairman of the Education Policy Institute, has called for a delay to the publication of GCSE results.

The former Liberal Democrat minister added: ‘It’s clear this week that England faces a crisis of confidence in its exam grading, which is causing distress to students and uncertainty for schools, colleges and universities. 

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 essential that GCSE grades are not published until Ofqual is confident that they are fair and robust and will not lead to further speculation or uncertainty and a requirement for mass appeals.

‘Ofqual has tried hard to maintain the overall credibility of the exams system this year but this seems to have come at a very high price to fairness to individual students.

‘In making a choice between guarding exam standards and fairness to individual students, it is much more important to prioritise fairness to students.

‘We also need to avoid our entire education system being clogged up with appeals – and it is very unlikely that Ofqual has the capacity itself to deal with mass numbers of such appeals.’

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, ahead of GCSE results day.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said the option of awarding pupils their GCSE results based on teacher-assessed grades should be kept on the table.

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

Asked whether GCSE results day should be delayed, Ms Green told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The Government need to make progress on this, tell us what they’re doing, tell us when they’re going to be able to give us absolute assurance that this algorithm is reliable or that they’ve found an alternative way of grading students that is reliable, and this cannot be allowed to drag on – these young people are desperate to know about their futures.’

On allowing students to receive their teacher-assessed grades, she added: ‘I recognise that it is not perfect, you can back that up, of course, with an appeals system which can include looking at the mock results if they’re available and if they’re felt to be robust.

‘I think in these exceptional circumstances that these students are in this year, the fact that their education has already been so disrupted, we have said teacher-assessed grades should be the basis for the A-level results.

‘It may be that if there’s no other fair method of determining the GCSE results, we’ll have to look at that, keep that option on the table for them too.’  

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.

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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