November 30, 2020

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UK coronavirus live: Gavin Williamson backs Ofqual after exams furore

Education secretary bows to pressure to back Sally Collier’s leadership of beleaguered exams regulator a day after steadfastly refusing to do so

5.21pm BST

Dr Simon Hyde, the general secretary of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), which represents 296 leading private schools, has called for a public inquiry into the “shambles” of the 2020 exams, which were cancelled because of the pandemic.

It is vital that lessons are learnt to avoid making the same mistakes next year. We are worried about the effect of this mess on students taking their A-levels and GCSEs in 2021; they must return to school knowing that there is a sensible and ethical system in place if their exams have to be cancelled.

In particular, we need to understand why important decisions were taken once exams were cancelled to try and use statistics to predict every individual student’s grade in every subject, and how much emphasis was put on fairness for every young person.

5.08pm BST

Ofqual’s exam results algorithm was unlawful, the shadow attorney general has said, as Gavin Williamson finally gave his backing to the beleaguered regulator.

Jessica Elgot and Richard Adams write that the education secretary, who has previously pointed the finger at Ofqual over the exams fiasco, issued a statement earlier saying he had full confidence in the regulator. He admitted it had ultimately been Ofqual’s decision to make U-turn on results produced by its algorithm in favour of teacher-assessed grades.

Related: Ofqual exam results algorithm was unlawful, says Labour

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