Boris Johnson ‘sorry for any distress’ caused by exam results confusion, Downing Street says

Prime minister initially insisted that A-level outcomes produced by algorithm were ‘robust’

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Monday 24 August 2020 15:33
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People take part in a protest over the governments handling of exam results outside Downing Street
People take part in a protest over the governments handling of exam results outside Downing Street

The prime minister is “sorry for any distress” caused by his government’s handling of exam results this year, Downing Street has said.

Boris Johnson initially defended the A-level results produced by a controversial algorithm, saying “they’re robust, they’re good, they’re dependable for employers”.

But he defied calls to return from his summer holiday amid growing uproar over the outcomes, which ended in a government U-turn after nearly 40 per cent of students having their predicted results downgraded, with state school pupils suffering more than the private sector.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson was forced to apologise as he overturned the system and allowed A-level and GCSE pupils to be awarded their assessed grades where they were higher than those produced by Ofqual’s computers.

And he dodged a question over whether he offered to resign over the fiasco, telling ITV News: “My focus is making sure that we put right the problems and my focus now is ensuring that all children are welcomed back in their school classrooms next week and the week after and I will be looking forward to doing so.”

Asked today if Mr Johnson regretted the Government’s handling of exam results this year, a Number 10 spokesman said: “The PM is of course sorry for any distress that has been caused.

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

He added: “So, as the education secretary set out and as we’ve said a few times now, we’re of course sorry for any distress and anger that was felt by students around the awarding of exam results this year.

“The education secretary acknowledged that it was a difficult time and apologised for the distress caused.”

Mr Williamson was facing fresh scrutiny after he reportedly cancelled a key meeting to go on holiday in Scarborough the week before the A-level exams fiasco.

It is understood he was visiting his parents and is said to have kept in contact with the Department for Education (DfE) during the trip.

Gillian Keegan, an education minister, was criticised after sharing photographs of herself in France as the results drama unfolded.

Mr Williamson appears to have “liked” several of the pictures.

Asked if Number 10 had given prior approval for the trips, the Downing Street spokesman said: “The education secretary has addressed this himself so I’ve got nothing to add to that.”

He added: “He set out that he went back to see his family in Scarborough and remained in constant contact with the department.

“Similarly DfE and other bodies involved have worked non-stop and continue to do so to make sure that kids can go back to school next week.”

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