Williamson will not confirm confidence in Ofqual

Education secretary says 'unfairnesses' in the grading system became apparent over the weekend, prompting the government's U-turn

Tes Reporter

A-level results: Education secretary Gavin Williamson says the government spent 'considerable time' on its decision to allow appeals based on mock exams

Education secretary Gavin Williamson won't say whether he has confidence in the exams regulator following the U-turn over A-level and GCSE grading earlier today.

In a press briefing, he would not answer whether he retained confidence in Ofqual, but said the body had worked “incredibly hard” to ensure fairness.

"We had the constant reassurance that the system, the algorithm, was the right algorithm in order to be able to deliver a fair distribution of grades within schools right across England," Mr Williamson said.

“When it became apparent that there were challenges with that, the right thing to do is to act.”


In full: Ofqual's A-level and GCSE U-turn statement

News: U-turn will see A-level and GCSE teacher grades stand

A-level and GCSE grades U-turn: How did we get here?


Asked if he had confidence in Ofqual and whether it was a fit and able body, he said: “I know that Ofqual, at every single stage, have been working incredibly hard to ensure there is fairness in the system.

“And we’ll work with Ofqual and the exam boards to ensure that the grades that youngsters have worked so hard towards are properly issued both for GCSEs and of course for A levels and AS levels.

“But it’s absolutely vital that youngsters get the grades that they deserve and that they’ve worked towards.”

The education secretary added that he had realised there were "unfairnesses" in the grading system over the weekend – prompting the U-turn today, which saw an abandonment of Ofqual's standardising model for grading in favour of teacher-assessed grades.

"When it became apparent there were unfairnesses within the system, it was the right thing to act,” he said in an interview.

“Over the weekend it became clearer to me that there were a level… a number of students who were getting grades that frankly they shouldn’t have been getting and should’ve been doing a lot better.

“And the evidence both from Ofqual and other external bodies was apparent that action needed to be taken.

“As we looked in greater detail over Saturday and Sunday, it became evident that further action needed to be taken.”

He said the government had been assured by the regulator that the grading system was fair during Ofqual's consultation process, and had consistently asked about any inequality inherent in the grading system.

“[We asked about] fairness to make sure that children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds didn’t suffer, make sure that children from ethnic minority backgrounds are not in a situation where they were unfairly downgraded," he said.

“And as we got the results, we always understandably ask for that reassurance and that confirmation that this has been done fairly and in the best interests of students,” he said.

“But at the weekend, as more evidence came in, it was clear that we needed to act. That’s what we have done.”

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