PUPIL power last night forced the government into a humiliating U-turn on A-level and GCSE grading — after education secretary Gavin Williamson declared there would be ‘no change, no U-turn’.
Mr Williamson and exams regulator Ofqual apologised to thousands of students after ditching the controversial algorithm that saw four in ten results downgraded just five days earlier.
They will now be awarded the marks predicted by teachers — and so will GCSE pupils whose results are out on Thursday.
As Boris Johnson stayed out of sight on holiday in Scotland, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the decision was a ‘screeching U-turn after days of confusion’ and ‘a victory for the thousands of young people who have powerfully made their voices heard’.
He added: ‘The Tories’ handling of this situation has been a complete fiasco.’ Wales and Northern Ireland also announced they were moving to teacher-assessed grades, following a similar decision in Scotland last week.
But there are fears that the about-turn has come too late for thousands of students from poorer backgrounds — with the algorithm, based on schools’ past performance, favouring privately-educated pupils.
They have already lost out on their preferred universities, with their places filled by other candidates.
The Department for Education said it would no longer be applying its cap on places. Former Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook suggested around 55,000 students denied their first choice could now push to be reconsidered. ‘That could mean complete chaos in the admissions system,’ she said.
Yesterday, pupils marched on Mr Williamson’s constituency office in Codsall, Staffordshire.
Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students, said: ‘This victory belongs to every student who told their story, who lobbied the government and who took to the streets in the face of a classist, racist, ableist moderation system.’ Downing Street said the PM had spoken to Mr Williamson and retained confidence in both him and Ofqual chief executive Sally Collier.
Ofqual chairman Roger Taylor said: ‘We developed an approach that had been used in other countries as well, but it’s clear while it may have technical merits in some ways it simply has not been an acceptable experience for young people. I’d like to say sorry.’
Mr Williamson said: ‘We worked with Ofqual to construct the fairest possible model, but it is clear that the process of allocating grades has resulted in more significant inconsistencies than can be resolved through an appeals process.
‘I am sorry for the distress this has caused young people and their parents but hope this announcement will now provide the certainty and reassurance they deserve.’
In an apparent attempt to shift the blame on to Ofqual, Mr Williamson said it had ‘constantly’ assured him the algorithm was ‘robust’ and ‘fair’ and claimed he did not see detailed information on it until the weekend.