The Government was facing a growing backlash from Tory MPs today after its handling of A-levels was branded “extremely unfair” to individual pupils.
Students have been left scrambling to appeal after 280,000 results assessed by teachers, in the absence of exams, were downgraded by a computer algorithm.
MPs have been deluged with complaints that pupils from less well-off backgrounds fared particularly badly, undermining the pledge to “level up” disadvantaged areas, including in seats taken from Labour in the north at the last election.
Alexander Stafford, one of Boris Johnson’s “red wall” MPs, tweeted: “I am, of course, very concerned about reports about downgrading of results in schools across Rother Valley such as at Wales High.
“I will be contacting the Education Secretary to demand answers and ensure no one is disadvantaged.”
I am, of course, very concerned about reports about downgrading of results in schools across Rother Valley such as at Wales High. I will be contacting the Education Secretary to demand answers and ensure no one is disadvantaged.— Alexander Stafford MP (@Alex_Stafford)August 13, 2020
Lucy Allan, the Tory MP for Telford, shared details of a girl who saw her grades nosedive, commenting: “Super bright articulate student demonstrates just how fundamentally flawed the algorithm is.”
Conservative MP for Poole Sir Robert Syms wrote: “Had Zoom meeting this afternoon with schools minister, number of issues raised about fairness of A-level results and appeals process.
"Think too much concern about grade inflation when this has meant downgrading kids who never had a chance to take exams.”
David Jones, Tory MP for Clwyd West, said: “I know there have been disappointments, with some very surprising results. I am already pursuing some of these cases.”
Dover MP Natalie Elphicke also said a number of students had been in touch about “disappointing adjusted results” and that she would discuss their concerns with the schools minister.
Robert Halfon, Conservative chair of the Commons education select committee, spoke to the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson yesterday.
He told BBC News: “He made it clear that those who were appealing it on the basis of a mock that they would have a super-fast turnaround.” Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the Government to scrap its “flawed” system and to resolve the fiasco with a Scottish-style U-turn.
However, Mr Williamson has insisted he would not follow suit in allowing far more students to get results based on assessments from their school.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was asked on BBC Breakfast today if he accepted that poor students had been hardest hit. He replied: “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 per cent more are going to university, have been accepted for university, than last year.”
Mr Shapps, who has daughter and son twins who will be getting their GCSE results next week, told LBC: “I think the system that has been put in place here actually does the best of what is possible, but of course it’s suboptimal not to be able to take the actual exams.”
Conservative peer Lord Lucas, who is Editor-in-Chief of The Good Schools Guide, told LBC: “To do something that is fair overall — which the Government has done — but is extremely unfair at the individual level just does not work.”
He called for more resources for the appeal system, although he said what the Scots had done resulted in a “war-time degree” that is “less meaningful”.
Lord Willetts, the Tory former universities minister, also said it was “really important” that appeal cases are considered “fairly and promptly”.
Lord Porter of Spalding, a council leader, said: “Today is one of those rare days where I have to say I am ashamed to be a Conservative. There are going to be hundreds, if not thousands, of students who get stiffed by the shambolic process.”