Labour’s Kate Green has said that she is “not letting Gavin Williamson or the Prime Minister off the hook” over the fiasco caused by the government’s handling of exam results in the pandemic.
In an interview with Times Radio this morning, the Shadow Education Secretary told listeners that the Williamson cannot “wriggle off responsibility for this chaos” and described how he and Boris Johnson are “ultimately responsible”.
Green also declared that it is “absolutely ludicrous” that students still do not have the answers they need to progress, despite the Tories having had months to prepare for the release of school grades.
Commenting on the fact that Williamson and Johnson are responsible for past two weeks of confusion and uncertainty for students, she said: “I don’t think Gavin Williamson can wriggle off responsibility for this chaos.
“Young people know who’s at fault here – who’s cost all this damage to their future… I’d certainly like to hear from Ofqual, but I’m not letting Gavin Williamson or the Prime Minister off the hook because they’re ultimately responsible.”
She added: “What I’m not getting is answers that say confidently to students: ‘We will get the right results to you. We’ll have a very clear appeal system if there’s still a problem where you think you’ve been unfairly graded – and you’ll know how to take the next step in your career or further study.'”
After announcing in April that students would receive grades standardised by an algorithm designed by the exams regulator Ofqual, the government performed what Labour called a “screeching U-turn” at the start of this week.
According to data published by the exams regulator, those with a grade C or above had been downgraded from teacher estimations by over 10% among children from the most disadvantaged background.
Following a public outcry when A-Level results were published last week – with nearly 40% of students in England seeing their predicted results downgraded – the government said it would accept the initial teacher predictions.
Similar to U-turns performed in Scotland and Wales before the UK government made its decision on Monday, Williamson said that the government would be abandoning the controversial algorithm used to moderate pupils’ grades.
Asked about the students now set to receive boosted grades, Green said: “I think we have to realise that for this cohort of young people… their education has been massively disrupted over the past few months because of the Covid crisis.
“And I think we have to bend over backwards for these young people, do things that perhaps you wouldn’t do in normal years to protect their future studies.
“The government took exceptional steps with things like furlough schemes for those that might have lost their jobs – surely it should take exceptional steps for these young people?”
Following the U-turn on A-Level, AS and GCSE exam grades on Monday, Labour figures have urged the government to provide urgent clarification on outstanding questions, including why BTEC students were excluded from the policy change.
The Times reported today that Williamson had been warned that the algorithm would lead to unfair and incorrect grades being awarded, but insisted on applying the standardisation to the results anyway.
Commenting on his inaction, Green said: “Williamson was warned again and again about the problems with the grading algorithm, and each time, he did nothing.
“This endless pattern of incompetence is no way to run a country. His failure to listen to warnings and to act on them risked thousands of young people being robbed of their futures.”
She called for “full transparency” and said that his department should publish all correspondence to and from the Education Secretary about the algorithm. She added: “Young people deserve to know how they came to be let down so badly”.