A-level and GCSE exams row: PM has ‘confidence’ in Gavin Williamson and Ofqual

Boris Johnson has “confidence” in his education secretary and the English exams regulator despite chaos over A-level and GCSE results.

Downing Street said the prime minister spoke to Gavin Williamson and other officials on the phone from his holiday in Scotland on Monday morning about the issue.

Number 10 added the government was trying to “come up with the fairest system possible”, after complaints from pupils and Tory MPs about the algorithm used to mark those whose exams were cancelled due to coronavirus.

Mr Johnson’s spokesman refused to say if he would follow the approach of Scotland and Northern Ireland in ditching the system and grade students according to their teachers’ predictions.

“It is a devolved issue, our focus remains on working hard to introduce the fairest system possible for pupils,” he told reporters on Monday afternoon.

Asked if the prime minister had confidence in Mr Williamson, his spokesman said “yes” and added: “Ofqual continues to have the support of the PM.”

Sky News understands an announcement will be made by the UK government later today.

Downing Street is facing pressure to provide clarity due to fury from some in his own party about the handling of results, after exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It seems private schools were the biggest benefit of the algorithm which led to claims it had “baked in” inequality.

Conservative former education secretary Lord Baker, who drew up the GCSE exam system in the late 1980s, said the algorithm was “flawed” and called for results day this Thursday to be postponed.

“The A-level results have produced hundreds of thousands of unfair and barely explicable downgrades,” he said.

“They have helped smaller private schools but hit the brighter students in a poorly performing state school. It is not surprising that various parties are considering legal actions.”

Mr Johnson last week defended the algorithm, saying it was “robust” and “dependable”.

Asked to repeat those words again on Monday, his spokesman declined to.

Labour is also urging ministers to “bring the exams fiasco to an end”.

“The government must now allow young people to use the grades their teachers predicted at both A-level and GCSE,” shadow education secretary Kate Green said.

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