A-level results: Students protest outside Downing Street amid growing pressure for Gavin Williamson to resign

More demonstrations planned over next few days

Zoe Tidman
Friday 14 August 2020 21:53 BST
A-level results: Students protest outside Downing Street amid growing pressure for Gavin Williamson to resign

Students and teachers have protested outside Downing Street over this year’s A-level results – tens of thousands of which were lowered in a system used to decide grades after exams were cancelled.

Images show a small group of demonstrators holding signs calling for the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, to resign.

One protester had written on her sign being “poor” does not equal “stupid”.

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

While Ofqual insisted there was no evidence of “systemic bias”, analysis noted the biggest reduction in the proportion of students awarded C grades and above after moderation was recorded within those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The downgrades overall – amounting to some 280,000 entries – were enacted as the nation’s education officials grappled with the vexing issue of how to determine results in a year in which exams were cancelled due to coronavirus.

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.

Anthony Costello, from the Independent Sage committee, called for people to "press the government to release the algorithm" used to determine grades to allow experts to assess it in a press conference on Friday.

Friday’s protest outside Downing Street started around midday.

The National Union of Student have backed the use of demonstrations for students unhappy with the grading system.

Protests are planned over the next few days, including another outside Downing Street, and one in Liverpool city centre.

A-level student Ophelia Gregory, who said she got moderated down in all her grades but still managed to make her Cambridge offer, is involved in a demonstration planned for London's Hyde Park on Saturday.

“Now it is time to get other people into the places they deserve to go,” she told The Independent.

"A lot of people are unhappy," she said, adding she thought the protests were "going to keep going" until the government made a U-turn.

There was also growing disquiet among Tory MPs. Robert Halfon, the Tory MP who chairs the Commons Education Committee, called for a “wider and quicker appeals system”.

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, also called for Mr Williamson to resign.

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, has called for a U-turn that would see the adjustments to grades scrapped, as they were in Scotland earlier this week.

Mr Williamson, in a statement, said: “I know there are some really difficult cases, and we have already put support in place to help those students, including an enhanced appeal process. In addition, our triple lock process means students will be able to accept their calculated grade, appeal on the basis of a valid mock result or sit an exam in the autumn.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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