Labour tables motion to force publication of “exams fiasco” documents

Andrew Kersley

Labour is set to table a motion to force the publication of all internal documents, minutes of meetings and ministerial submissions relating to this year’s exams U-turn and has demanded that Gavin Williamson and Boris Johnson “come clean”.

Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green has called on all parties to back the motion, subject to a vote on Wednesday, to make sure “the lessons of this summer will be learnt, and confidence in the system can be restored before next year’s exams”. 

Exams regulator Ofqual told the education select committee last week that Gavin Williamson had decided on the controversial system of algorithm-awarded grades and chose to cancel all exams without consulting the body.

The Shadow Education Secretary said: “Time and again the Secretary of State and Prime Minister have tried to avoid taking responsibility for the exams fiasco. It has become clear that their serial incompetence was responsible for the scandal.

“MPs from all parties should back this motion to ensure young people, their families and the wider public can be assured that the lessons of this summer will be learnt, and confidence in the system can be restored before next year’s exams.

“It is essential Gavin Williamson and Boris Johnson come clean about what they knew, when they knew it, and why nothing was done to address the concerns they were warned about.”

This latest move from the Labour Party follows the public outcry in August when the government’s new algorithm for allocating exam grades disproportionately downgraded disadvantaged students.

Although the government eventually U-turned and gave all students their teacher-predicted grades, think tanks have warned that the crisis will create problems in the education sector for years to come.

Commenting on the government’s knowledge of the problems with the controversial algorithm this morning, Labour leader Keir Starmer tweeted: “Pupils and teachers deserve to know what Gavin Williamson and Boris Johnson knew.”

Ofqual chair Roger Taylor told the parliamentary committee: “Our initial advice to the Secretary of State was that the best way to handle this was to try and hold exams in a socially distanced manner. Our second option was to delay exams.”

He revealed it was only the “third option” to consider calculated grades, but the Education Secretary ignored their advice. Ofqual officials also testified that the government was briefed on the problems of the system a week before results day.

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