Boris Johnson insists A-level results are 'robust' as he shrugs off protests from teachers and pupils

Prime minister denies problems will hurt 2020 cohort, arguing students are snapping up the university places they are after

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 13 August 2020 17:20
Comments
Heartbroken A-level student says 'That computer doesn’t know who I am and that I exist'

Boris Johnson has shrugged off protests that the A-levels process has been a fiasco, describing the results as “robust” and “dependable”.

Despite growing anger among pupils and teachers, the prime minister also insisted he had full confidence Gavin Williamson, the under-fire education secretary.

“Let's be in no doubt about it, the exam results that we've got today are robust, they're good, they're dependable for employers,” he said.

The wide-ranging criticism of the results – with some students in tears, as predicted grades were lowered by use of a computer algorithm – had prompted speculation about a further government rethink.

But Mr Johnson denied the process would rebound on the 2020 cohort, pointing to figures showing they were snapping up the university places sought.

He said: “Already I think that there's a record number of candidates, of students, who are able to get their first-choice course at the university of their choice.

“Plus, there's a record number of students, of pupils, from disadvantaged backgrounds who now as a result of these grades, will be able to go to university.”

Anger grew as it was confirmed that almost 40 per cent of A-level grades awarded in England were lower than teachers' predictions, after the intervention of the regulator Ofqual.

Some 36 per cent were one grade lower, while 3 per cent were down two grades, after adjusted estimates replaced exams cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

School and college leaders demanded a review and said all fees for appeals should be waived.

The Association of Colleges said there were some colleges where more than half of their school-assessment grades have been ‘moderated’ downwards.

Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers' union, warned ministers “against simply digging in their heels and insisting all is well.”

One student in Somerset, Lilly Keeley Watts, told ITV News she had missed out on a place at Durham University because she had received only a C in biology.

“That computer doesn’t know who I am and that I exist. I don’t think it’s fair at all,” she protested.

And, asked if she had a message for Mr Williamson, she replied: “We are real people - you are not just speaking to numbers in a system. There is actually real people here that are opening these envelopes and it determines their future.”

But the prime minister urged critics to look at “the big picture” and the ability for students who felt hard done by to launch appeals.

“Where pupils are disappointed, where they feel that they could have done better, where they feel that there’s an injustice been done to them, there is the possibility of appeal and they can resit, they can take a resit this autumn as well,” he said.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in