Katy Balls

Can Gavin Williamson get a grip on the latest A-levels confusion?

Can Gavin Williamson get a grip on the latest A-levels confusion?
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Any hope in government that the row over A-level results would die down over the weekend has been dashed. As opposition MPs and students call for Gavin Williamson's resignation as Education Secretary, the general process has been thrown into doubt after Ofqual – the exams regulator – suddenly announced it is reviewing its guidance on how to appeal against A-level and GCSE grades using mock exam results (a point of contention is what happens when a mock result is higher than a teacher’s prediction). This announcement came only hours after that initial guidance was published.

This move has triggered a fresh wave of criticism over the overall handling of this year's A-level results – which saw a statistical model used to determine grades. This includes more Conservative politicians going public. Chair of the education select committee Rob Halfon has hit out at Ofqual for creating a 'huge mess' by announcing on Saturday the plan for reviewing appeals only to then take it down shortly after – thereby creating mass confusion. Meanwhile, former Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson has focussed her attention on Williamson in her comments. 

Davidson told Times Radio: 'The education secretary needs to get out on the television, he needs to be telling people what's going on, he needs to be telling Ofqual what is going to happen, he needs to grip this'. There is a general frustration in the party at the lack of clarity coming from the government with few details made public since Ofqual's announcement. Privately, Coffee House understands several Tory MPs are making their views known to the whips after a weekend of constituency complaints.

Williamson used an interview on Saturday to state that there will be ‘no u-turn, no change’ on the A-level & GCSE grading system. But with public anger high, Tory MPs agitated and a fresh row looming over GCSE results this week, the Education Secretary will need to do more – even if that is simply better communication.

Written byKaty Balls

Katy Balls is The Spectator's deputy political editor.

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