The exam grades fiasco calls into question Boris Johnson’s judgement

Editorial: The prime minister needs a clear-out of underperforming ministers like Gavin Williamson. U-turns are becoming all too common

Tuesday 18 August 2020 00:02
The PM needs to take a long, hard look at his cabinet
The PM needs to take a long, hard look at his cabinet

The government has finally bowed to the inevitable and accepted that A-level grades for students in England will be based on their teachers’ assessment rather than an algorithm which downgraded almost 40 per cent of teachers’ predictions.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, ensured it was Ofqual, the exams regulator, which announced the belated U-turn, but this was a fiasco of his making. He drew the wrong conclusion from events in Scotland, where the SNP government performed the same volte-face to prevent discrimination against pupils from disadvantaged families.

By ruling out repeating the about-turn in England, Mr Williamson put his own prospects ahead of those school pupils who have already endured a very difficult final year. Understandably, he and his deputy Nick Gibb wanted to prevent grade inflation. They should have realised that, for one unprecedented year without exams, this is a lesser evil than unfairly blighting the futures of tens of thousands of young people.

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