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Newham education chief calls for Gavin Williamson to go as government performs results U-turn

PUBLISHED: 13:56 18 August 2020

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has been nominted for the MP of the Year Award by KPMG and Patchwork; Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has been nominted for the MP of the Year Award by KPMG and Patchwork; Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

PA Wire/PA Images

The town hall’s education chief has slammed the government after its U-turn on A-level and Btec results.

Cllr Zulfiqar Ali is in charge of education at the town hall. Picture: Newham CouncilCllr Zulfiqar Ali is in charge of education at the town hall. Picture: Newham Council

Results for both qualifications in Newham appear to show a slight increase in performance by the borough’s schools and colleges.

But the grades had been based on a combination of teacher assessment and moderation by an electronic algorithm after exams were cancelled. But now the government has backtracked following a backlash.

National figures from regulator Ofqual showed 39 per cent of 700,000 teacher assessments were downgraded by at least one grade through the computer process. Schools and colleges had been expected to appeal against some grades.

The algorithm took into account pupils’ previous scores, teachers’ predicted grades and how well institutions did in previous exams. But now grades will be based on teacher’s predictions alone.

St Angela's Ursuline headteacher, Mark Johnson. Picture: Jon KingSt Angela's Ursuline headteacher, Mark Johnson. Picture: Jon King

Cllr Zulfiqar Ali, Newham Council’s cabinet member for education, said: “While I welcome the U-turn on grades assessments, which has been forced on it by young people, parents and teachers, the chaos is entirely the result of this government’s utter incompetence.

“The position of Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, is now clearly untenable and he must go. But he can’t be the only fall guy.

“It is clear responsibility for this whole mess goes right to the very top with the prime minister and his advisers.”

He added it remained unclear how GCSE pupils will receive their results on Thursday and how pupils who received potentially redundant A-level and Btec grades will communicate new results to universities and the UCAS clearing system.

Mandeep Gill is the new principal and CEO of Newham Sixth Form College. Pic: NewVIcMandeep Gill is the new principal and CEO of Newham Sixth Form College. Pic: NewVIc

Cllr Ali said: “The government has been playing with the futures of thousands of students with potential, who are missing out on opportunities due to this mess, confusion and uncertainty. It is an absolute farce.

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“The unforgiveable ramping of stress levels and anxiety this debacle has caused is totally unforgiveable. The government owes this generation of pupils a massive apology.”

Mr Williamson said: “We worked with Ofqual to construct the fairest possible model, but it is clear that the process of allocating grades has resulted in more significant inconsistencies than can be resolved through an appeals process.

“We now believe it is better to offer young people and parents certainty by moving to teacher assessed grades for both A and AS level and GCSE results.

“I am sorry for the distress this has caused young people and their parents but hope this announcement will now provide the certainty and reassurance they deserve.”

The principal of Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIc) Mandeep Gill had said last week staff were “angry” after more than 300 students had their results downgraded.

Despite a high pass rate at the Prince Regent Lane college, he expressed frustration that many were given grades lower than their teachers put forward for them. He said: “I’d like to thank the staff and students for their resilience, determination and hard work during these unprecedented times which has led to some truly brilliant results.

“However, most colleges report the grades that were submitted are much lower than those that have been awarded. Here at NewVIc we have seen the same trend.

“As a college we are very angry with this situation and are working closely with the Sixth Form Colleges Association and others at a national level to challenge the government on this decision.

“Our students were set to achieve higher than what they were awarded.”

And Mark Johnson, headteacher at St Angela’s Ursuline School, branded the methods used to calculate students’ grades a “national disgrace”.

Although pupils at the school secured the grades required for university places, with half at A*-B and 80 per cent at A*-C, Mr Johnson said: “A large percentage of the students, including those busy securing places at university, are amongst those given lower grades by a ludicrous moderation system which took next 
to no notice of the grades teachers actually 
awarded.

“It is a national disgrace that the prior attainment of other students in a school has been used to determine the results of this cohort as that is nothing to do with the hard work these students have put into their education in the past seven years.”


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