‘Too little too late’: Protesters to call for Gavin Williamson to resign, as tens of thousands await BTec results

Demonstrators will meet outside Downing Street on Friday 

Zoe Tidman
Thursday 20 August 2020 14:00 BST
Students have taken to the streets following A-level results last week
Students have taken to the streets following A-level results last week (AFP/Getty)

Protesters are set to call for Gavin Williamson to resign and “justice for BTec students” amid ongoing exams chaos, as hundreds of thousands of pupils were still waiting for results.

GCSE students found out their marks on Thursday – days after a government U-turn said pupils could take teacher-estimated grades, if higher than moderated ones.

However, tens of thousands of BTec students due to get their grades were told on Wednesday that there would be a delay with their results, as the exam board recalculated their grade to match the government’s change in policy for other qualifications.

A fresh protest is planned outside Downing Street at midday on Friday, and another at St George’s Hall in Liverpool an hour later, in support of BTec students.

Demonstrators meeting at St George’s Hall around 1pm said they also wanted a simple appeals process for students unhappy with their teacher-assessed grades.

There is currently no option for pupils to appeal their results.

One of the organisers of the London protest told The Independent they would be calling for the education secretary to resign over his handing of this year’s grading, which followed exams being cancelled due to coronavirus.

Gavin Williamson has resisted calls to quit, but has apologised to thousands of students for the distress caused.

Sophia Beach said organisers decided to go ahead with Friday’s demonstration outside Downing Street even after Mr Williamson announced A-level and GCSE students could get their teacher-predicted grades following student protests.

The move came after it was revealed nearly 40 per cent of A-level marks in England had been downgraded in moderation.

“Although the U-turn is a step in the right direction, it is a little bit too little too late, particularly as universities have already gone through clearing and have already given out the places,” Ms Beach told The Independent.

An estimated 15,000 students got the grades for their first-choice university with their teacher-assessed results, after initially being rejected with their moderated grades, Ucas said on Wednesday.

While universities have vowed to do their best to accommodate these students, some institutions have warned places may have to be deferred until next year.

Ms Beach told The Independent the Downing Street protest would also call for ”justice for BTec students”, who were not included in Monday’s grading U-turn.

“Obviously there has been a lot of anger among the students,” the 21-year-old added.

Pearson, an exam board, has said it will regrade BTec results released last week – as well grades due to be released on the same day as GCSE results.

A Pearson spokesperson said this was “to address concerns about unfairness in relation to A-levels and GCSEs and ensure no BTec student is disadvantaged”.

GCSE results came out on Thursday, showing a record number of entries had received the top marks. Students have been given the higher of either a teachers’ estimated grade or a moderated grade.

Nearly 26 per cent of entries received one of the three highest marks this year, figures from exams regulator Ofqual show. This is a rise from around 20 per cent last year.

A Department for Education spokesperson said the ministry knew this BTec results delay would be “disappointing”, and the move was taken “to make absolutely certain no student is inadvertently worse off due to changes in how grades are assessed”.

They added: “Ofqual, UCAS and the relevant awarding organisations are also working to ensure students seeking entrance to university are not disadvantaged, and we are working with colleges and other further education providers to make sure students looking to continue into further education can still do so.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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