Earlier this month the columnist Sarah Vine revealed in the Mail on Sunday that education secretary Gavin Williamson had been the recipient of a tearful phone call from a student over last year’s A-level results day fiasco. Now two weeks later Mr S can go a step further in revealing the barrage of critical correspondence Williamson received in the immediate aftermath of the crisis.
Parents, teachers, MPs and pupils bombarded Williamson with emails, obtained via a Freedom of Information request, with one angry grandmother telling the education secretary she had ‘never witnessed such injustice in the education system’ after an algorithm was employed to determine students’ results following the cancellation of summer exams.
Others described the situation as a ‘disgrace’, ‘social engineering’ and a ‘shambles and a fiasco’ according to newly released emails which show the pressure that was brought to bear on the minister. Cabinet colleagues of Williamson such as home secretary Priti Patel and party chair Amanda Milling were forced to write and highlight cases of constituents whose children had been affected.
Backbench MP Pauline Latham wrote to her fellow Tory just hours after results were released, warning: ‘Time is of the essence for this to be resolved…. It has caused a lot of upset amongst parents, pupils and staff.’ A Rossendale constituent of Jake Berry said it amounted to ‘discriminatory practice’ while former Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan forwarded one example of a constituent’s ‘farcical’ results.
It concluded with the student’s father noting that ‘neither I nor my wife attended uni, so naturally we want our son to have the best opportunity that is possible.’ Less than 48 hours after A-level results day, Williamson was forced into a humiliating U-turn and backed teacher assessments, following the furious backlash.
A Freedom of Information request to the department of education asked for correspondence sent to Mr Williamson between noon and 11 pm on A-level results day and GCSE results day the following week.