A-levels: Education secretary ‘won’t apologise’ for changing exam results system

The education secretary says he won’t apologise for changing how exams are graded after he came under fire on the eve of A-level results being revealed.

Gavin Williamson said by allowing pupils to use their best results from mock exams, or a moderated system or by taking exams in October, students would “benefit”.

“I won’t apologise for the fact we want to make these changes because we do think they’ll benefit young people,” he said.

Late on Tuesday, he announced the “triple lock” system for England ahead of Thursday’s AS and A-level results, prompting criticism from Labour and teaching and student unions.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for statutory guidance to require colleges and universities to show greater flexibility in admissions.

He said it was a “blatant injustice” young people could have their futures decided by their postcode as a result of the exams system.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green told Sky News the announcement was “papering over the cracks of a system that really is in chaos”.

But Mr Williamson defended the last-minute decision, made after Scotland was forced to scrap moderated grades after the downgrading of more than 124,000 results was reversed.

He said the government was confident they could deal with any appeals and said it was important they were dealt with swiftly to ensure any new grades were given in time to get into university.

“What’s so important is I do everything I can to ensure we have as fair a system as possible for every student and making sure that if we have to go that extra mile, as we have here, to give youngsters the best opportunity in life and make sure they get the grades they’ve been working towards and aspiring to,” he added.

“We think we’ve got the balance of the system absolutely right. We want to get this right for young people.

“We recognise during a global pandemic we’re having to do lots of things in a very different and unusual way, this is why we’re taking a different approach, a more generous approach in terms of the appeals process.

“These actions are about making sure young people succeed.”

With exams unable to take place due to the coronavirus lockdown, 250,000 students will receive results on Thursday based on predictions set by teachers.

But those predictions will be subject to moderation by exam boards who will attempt to ensure results are not inconsistent with previous years by adjusting the grades based on a school’s previous results.

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