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Keir Starmer calls for Government U-turn on exams fiasco

Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Labour Party

@UKLabour calls for Government U-turn on exams fiasco 

Keir Starmer has today (14 Aug) called on the UK Government to scrap its “fatally flawed” system which saw hundreds of thousands of A-Level results downgraded in yesterday’s exams fiasco. 

Arguing that “no young person should be at a detriment due to Government incompetence” Starmer called on the Prime Minister to resolve the worsening exams fiasco with a Scottish Government-style U-turn.

The intervention comes after 280,000 ‘teacher assessed’ A-Level results were downgraded yesterday by an algorithm which was condemned by teachers, pupils and parents. A move back to teacher assessed grades for pupils who were downgraded was described by Starmer as the best option for the “unprecedented and chaotic circumstances” created by the UK Government’s mishandling of education during the pandemic.

Demanding action in “days, not weeks” Labour also called today for an urgent technical review of the standardisation process ahead of GCSE results next week.

This echoes calls made on Thursday by the Association of Colleges who warned the process “may have been biased.”

Starmer’s demand follows 24 hours of confusion around A-Level results, as the Government failed to clarify how students could make use of Ministers’ last-minute proposals for students to use mock grades as entry to university or college. Students reported losing places in Higher and Further Education, and education leaders reported the system was failing on its own terms, with one third of college principals reporting results lower or “dramatically lower” than their historic exam performance.

The Labour leader today accused the UK Government of “grossly misleading” hopeful students after Schools Minister Nick Gibb promised this week that any downgrades “will be by just one grade.” Figures from Ofqual yesterday showed that around 24,000 grades were marked down by more than one mark by the standardisation model.

Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Labour Party, said:

“Across the last twenty four hours we have heard heartbreaking stories and the scale of the injustice caused by the fatally flawed results system has become clear.

“Young people and parents right across the country, in every town and city, feel let down and betrayed. Claims from the Schools Minister this week were grossly misleading.

“The unprecedented and chaotic circumstances created by the UK Government’s mishandling of education during recent months mean that a return to teacher assessments is now the best option available. No young person should be at a detriment due to Government incompetence.

“Time is running out. We need action in days, not weeks. That also means an urgent technical review of the standardisation model ahead of GCSE results next week. We need to end this fiasco.”

Ofqual confirmed that nearly two in five (39.1%) A-Level grades in England have been downgraded. Around 280,000 exam entries have been downgraded in this way, including tens of thousands by more than one grade. – OfQual Research and Analysis, 13 August 2020, 

Labour has already called on the Government to waive all fees for A-Level appeals and to urgently clarify the appeals process, as universities are reportedly filling student places.

Ministers ignored Labour’s calls earlier this week to make a series of improvements to the results process, including: mandating greater flexibility in admissions to higher and further education, greater transparency in the standardisation process, allowing individual students to appeal their grades, and ensuring that nobody is standardised to below a Grade 4 in GCSE Maths and English next week.

Speaking on Radio 4 on Wednesday, Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

“The majority of students tomorrow will get the grade submitted by their teachers. Those 40 per cent that are adjusted will be by just one grade.” 

A third of college principals reported results yesterday lower or “dramatically lower” than their historic exam performance.

On Monday, the Scottish Government U-turned on exam results after its moderation system marked down 125,000 results. All results that were downgraded will be withdrawn and replaced by the original estimates.

The number of pupils achieving grade C or above was downgraded from teacher estimations by just over 10% for children from the most disadvantaged background, compared to just over 8% for their most affluent peers.

Private school pupils have seen top grades increase far beyond state school peers. After falling by 1.9% last year, the proportion of private school pupils achieving A or A* has increased by almost 5%. That is more than double the increase seen in secondary state schools (2%) and more than 10 times the increase seen in sixth-form colleges (0.3%).

There is a regional variation in the number of top grades awarded compared with the last academic year. The North East and North West saw the lowest increases in outcomes at grade A and above, compared with 2019.

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