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World PM's apology over exams U-turn as minister quiet on resignation

20:44  24 august  2020
20:44  24 august  2020 Source:   news.sky.com

Threat of legal action adds to pressure for government rethink on A-levels 'mess'

  Threat of legal action adds to pressure for government rethink on A-levels 'mess' The government and the exams regulator are being threatened with legal action as pressure mounts for a rethink over the awarding of A-level grades. Around 280,000 students saw their A-level grades fall by one grade or more from their predicted results following the introduction of a new "moderation" algorithm, which was put in place after the coronavirus lockdown led to exams being cancelled.Further confusion was added to the row on Saturday night when Ofqual, the exams regulator, suddenly suspended its own policy for students wishing to appeal their results.

Downing Street has apologised for the "distress" caused by the exams U-turn, as a senior minister refused to deny he offered to resign.

Boris Johnson wearing a suit and tie: PM Boris Johnson was on his summer holiday last week © Imagebridge PM Boris Johnson was on his summer holiday last week

Boris Johnson's spokesman issued an apology after the chaos faced by A-level, GCSE and BTEC pupils last week.

The prime minister was on holiday in Scotland while the row erupted over an algorithm designed to moderate teachers' predicted grades because exams were cancelled due to coronavirus.

How other countries in Europe held their exams

  How other countries in Europe held their exams Like many European countries, Britain cancelled student exams due to the coronavirus pandemic. © Other To calculate results, teachers were asked to submit the grades they thought each student would have achieved to exam boards and to rank their pupils in order. Data points for each student were then put through a statistical model, including the school's previous performance.

Asked about the U-turn, which happened on Tuesday last week, Mr Johnson's spokesman said: "The PM is of course sorry for any distress that has been caused.

a group of people holding a sign: The education secretary faced down calls to quit © PA The education secretary faced down calls to quit

"Our focus has been and will be ensuring that students can move on to the next phase and ensuring kids can get back to school next week."

It follows heartbreaking stories of students who missed out on university places - or in the case of one person Sky News spoke to, a bursary - due to being unfairly downgraded.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Gavin Williamson suggested some parents could be fined © NetStorage Gavin Williamson suggested some parents could be fined

The algorithm appeared to boost private schools' performance, with ministers in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and then England succumbing to pressure to leave teachers' marks unchanged.

What does the exams U-turn mean for A-level and GCSE students?

  What does the exams U-turn mean for A-level and GCSE students? Students have breathed a sigh of relief after they were told their A-level grades will now be based on teachers' assessments if these were higher than their moderated marks. © Other Students are receiving AS and A-level results on Thursday GCSE pupils nervously awaiting their results on Thursday can also choose the grades their teachers determined instead of the controversial algorithm that Ofqual devised.The government's U-turn comes after the exams regulator revealed that nearly two in five (39.1%) A-level grades predicted by teachers were reduced.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson faced calls to quit after the fiasco, with one newspaper reporting he offered his resignation but had it turned down by Mr Johnson.

Asked yes or no if the story was correct, Mr Williamson said "My focus is making sure that we put right the problems."

Pressed a further two times, he added: "My focus now is ensuring that all children are welcome back into the school classrooms next week and the week after, and we look forward to doing so."

Ministers are pushing on with trying to ensure schools fully reopen for the new academic year and that parents have confidence it is safe to send kids back.

Clown' Gavin Williamson is savaged by British press over exams 'farce'

  Clown' Gavin Williamson is savaged by British press over exams 'farce' The Daily Mail used the headline 'Another fine mess', with a cartoon of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson as Laurel and Hardy.The Daily Mail used the headline 'Another fine mess', with a cartoon of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Mr Williamson as Laurel and Hardy, saying it was a 'humiliating climbdown' for the Education Secretary.

The UK's four chief medical officers said "very few, if any" children would come to long-term harm from the virus by going back to school, while there is a "certainty" of harm from not attending.

But the issue has ignited after 17 members of staff and two pupils tested positive for COVID-19 at a school in Dundee - less than two weeks after schools returned in Scotland.

Mr Williamson suggested parents may be fined if they refuse to send their kids back.

He said: "We would ask all schools to work with those parents, encourage them to bring their children back, deal with the concerns that they have and fining would be very much the last resort - as it has always been."

Mr Williamson also said closing schools would only happen as a "last resort", though England's deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries said the measure would be taken "if necessary".

MPs go back to work, as the prime minister urges the rest of the UK to do the same .
Boris Johnson is facing one of the toughest tests of his premiership as he attempts to persuade parents to send children back to school and workers to return to their offices. On the day MPs return to the Commons after the summer recess, schools in England and Wales are re-opening, with the government desperately hoping for a mass return to classrooms.Ministers believe getting children back to school is vital to end the widespread working from home which has turned city centres into ghost towns and led to massive job losses on the high street.

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