Angela Rayner gives Gavin Williamson a 'U' for handling of A Level exams grading

Luke O'Reilly
·4-min read
Angela Rayner who has won the Labour party deputy leadership race: PA
Angela Rayner who has won the Labour party deputy leadership race: PA

Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner has slammed education secretary Gavin Williamson over his handling of A-level results and called on him to respond to criticism over the way grades were calculate.d

A-level results day descended into chaos as 39.1 per cent of teachers’ estimates for pupils in England were adjusted down by one grade or more , according to data from the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual).

The downgrades – amounting to some 280,000 entries – were enacted after the nation’s education officials used an algorithm to adjust results based on schools' previous records.

The Government is coming under increasing pressure to review its moderation and appeals system , with pupils complaining they have been let down, and experts warning poorer students will be affected most due to reassessments which consider schools’ past performances.

Ms Rayner downgraded Mr Williamson to a U (AFP via Getty Images)
Ms Rayner downgraded Mr Williamson to a U (AFP via Getty Images)

Ms Rayner appeared on BBC Breakfast, Good Morning Britain, and Sky News on Thursday morning, where she described the results as an "absolute mess". She then took to Twitter to criticise Mr Williamson for failing to do media round the morning after results day.

"Good morning @GavinWilliamson why aren't you out on the media this morning explaining to thousands of young people what you are going to do to fix the A Levels results mess? ", she tweeted.

"@GMB asked me to grade your performance in handling this fiasco, I'm afraid it's an E downgraded to a U."

The comment came after Ms Rayner told BBC Breakfast that the Government had turned the school exams grading into a "fiasco".

She told BBC Breakfast: “We believe the only option that the Government have got now is to go back to the teacher-awarded grades because they’ve made such a fiasco.

“I mean, if you look at what’s happened over the last 24 hours, a lot of children who have worked incredibly hard have been devastated by a system that’s been completely flawed and has taken into account the school’s previous history rather than what that child’s been able to achieve this year.

“I think that’s devastating and there’s baked inequality in what’s happened.”

She added: “The Government have to act very quickly on this. There’s a lot of young people out there that their life chances are determined by whether or not they’re able to get on and get into university or onto the course or the apprenticeship scheme that they want based on these grades.

“The Government have made an absolute mess of it and they’ve known for months now that this was coming down the track.”

However transport secretary Grant Shapps, speaking on the BBC’s Breakfast programme, defended this year’s exam results.

Mr Shapps said the figures “look good” for the number of students able to go to university this year.

Ofqual has defended the downgrading as being forced into it by inaccurate predictions by many teachers (PA)
Ofqual has defended the downgrading as being forced into it by inaccurate predictions by many teachers (PA)

Asked if he would accept that poorer students have been hardest hit by the downgrading, Mr Shapps said: “No, I think again you should go on the evidence here – that’s not been the upshot.

“I was having a look at the numbers and 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, on the basis of the exam results yesterday, 7.3% more are going to university, have been accepted for university, than just last year.”

He added: “The figures show that both disadvantaged, and indeed the overall numbers of students who’ve got 9,000 more university places confirmed than last year, 179,000 18-year-olds accepted already for university, so the figures look good in terms of students being able to go to university this year.”

Ofqual has also defended the downgrading saying it had been forced into it by inaccurate predictions by many teachers, although the vast majority had submitted accurate estimates.

“Because there was no opportunity to develop a common approach to grading, the standard applied by different schools and colleges varies greatly,” an Ofqual spokesman told The Daily Telegraph.

“A rare few centres put in implausibly high judgments, including one which submitted all A* and A grades for students in two subjects, where previously there had been normal distribution.”

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