'We apologise to nobody' - Gibb defends 'eleventh-hour' mocks change

The government will “apologise to nobody” for its last-minute change to the exams system which will offer some pupils the option to use “valid mock grades” instead of standardised results, the schools minister has said.

Nick Gibb was defiant when he appeared on BBC Breakfast this morning to defend the change, which was announced late last night and has been widely criticised.

Under the new system, drawn up less than two days before A-level results day, the DfE said that students “could receive the higher result out of their calculated grade, valid mock grade, or autumn exam grade”. The mock exam option will be available via the appeals process, ministers said.

But school leaders were damning in their response, with ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton saying the “idea of introducing at the eleventh hour a system in which mock exam results trump calculated grades beggars belief”.

Asked about the last-minute proposals, Gibb said: “We apologise to nobody for finding solutions – even at the eleventh hour – to stop any student being disadvantaged by this system.”

His comments come in sharp contrast to those of John Swinney, Scotland’s education minister, who yesterday apologised to pupils affected by the exam results crisis north of the border.

Gibb admitted in his BBC interview that ministers in England had been “worried” by what happened in Scotland, where ministers were this week forced to withdraw more than 124,000 standardised grades that had been downgraded, and give pupils their school-provided grades instead.

But he said the UK government was “not changing the fundamental system here as they are in Scotland”, and insisted there was “no confusion”.

“We have been very clear from the very beginning. We had to have a system in place to award qualifications to young people given that we had cancelled the exams,” he said.

“With the best model in the world there will be students who fall outside it. We didn’t want any students to suffer disadvantage.”

Appearing on Sky News later in the morning, Gibb said the change was about “making sure at the edges that no student is disadvantaged”.

The government had already announced an “enhanced” appeals process last week, Gibb said. Under said system, schools will be able to appeal if they feel data used to standardise grades was not a “reliable basis” for predicting 2020 results.

The minister said the further change was meant “to capture, to give a safety net to any student who might fall through the system”.

“It will only affect a small group of people,” he said. “Most young people tomorrow will get the grade that the teacher sent into the exam board that they thought they would get.

“Those grades that are being changed, they are only being changed by about one grade, so most young people will be able to go on to university.”