Gavin Williamson Admits Ofqual Drove A-Levels U-Turn – After Taking Credit Himself

Education secretary had tried to shift blame for the exams fiasco, which saw mass downgrading of students.

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Under-fire education secretary Gavin Williamson has admitted regulator Ofqual was behind the scrapping of England’s disastrous A-level algorithm – after days of trying to take credit himself.

The minister has been accused of failing to take responsibility for the fiasco, and is facing calls to quit.

Teachers and students were furious when results decided by a computer algorithm downgraded almost 40% of students last week and hit poorer students’ outcomes hardest – as well as boosting private schools’ share of the top grades.

When the grades were binned and replaced by teachers’ original assessments of their students, widely seen as a fairer measure, Williamson claimed credit saying: “It became apparent to me over the weekend, we needed to do more, and I made the recommendation that we needed to make the move to [...] teacher grades.”

But a statement from the Department for Education on Wednesday admits that Ofqual drove the decision, not Williamson.

“We have full confidence in Ofqual and its leadership in their role as independent regulator and we continue to work closely with Ofqual to deliver fair results for our young people at this unprecedented time,” a spokesperson said.

“The decision they took to move from moderated grades to centre assessed grades was one that we agreed with.

“Our focus remains on working with Ofqual to ensure students receive their final GCSE, AS-level and A-level results this week so that they can move on to the next stage of their lives.”

Despite a torrent of criticism aimed at Williamson, he continues to enjoy the backing of No.10.

When asked if Williamson should be removed, health secretary Matt Hancock said it would “distract” from the issues facing education, including schools reopening in September after the Covid-19 lockdown.

He told Sky News: “These are unprecedented circumstances and I think everybody is working their hardest and trying to do their best in very difficult circumstances and I know that is true of Gavin Williamson as it is of all members of the government.

“The big focus is on getting schools back and open at the start of next month, an incredibly important task. I don’t think we should be distracted from that task now. We need to absolutely focus on it.”

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems have called for the government to publish all correspondence between Williamson and Ofqual.

Their education spokesperson Layla Moran said: “It appears that the decision to scrap the deeply unjust grading by postcode system came from Ofqual, not Gavin Williamson. Yet just days ago the education secretary claimed credit for this U-turn and attempted to throw the regulator under the bus.

“The government has serious questions to answer over what looks like a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. Enough of the smoke and mirrors – we urgently need clarity. All internal correspondence between DfE and Ofqual on this matter must to be published.

“Ultimately, if Gavin Williamson has been dishonest as well as incompetent, the prime minister will have no choice but to accept his resignation. It is time Mr Johnson stops letting down young people by backing his Tory cronies.”

Boris Johnson is on holiday in Scotland, according to No.10.


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