Williamson apologises to pupils ahead of A-level results day

The education secretary has apologised to “every single child right across this country” for the disruption they have suffered during the coronavirus pandemic, as schools brace for a chaotic A-level results day tomorrow.

In an interview with the BBC, Gavin Williamson said he was “deeply sorry” that the government had had to take actions including closing schools and cancelling exams.

His comments come as schools prepare for a deluge of requests for help from pupils due to receive their A-level results tomorrow, and those expecting GCSE grades next Thursday.

Exams this year were replaced with a system of centre-assessment grades, which have then been standardised by exam boards in a bid to avoid grade inflation.

But it is this system of standardisation that is likely to prove controversial, with ministers already admitting that 40 per cent of A-level grades have been amended as part of the process, and Ofqual confirming it has had to haul down grades by 12 percentage points.

Headteachers are also scrambling to make sense of an eleventh-hour announcement by the government last night that some pupils will be given the chance to appeal if results from “valid” mock exams end up higher than the calculated grades handed down by exam boards.

Ofqual, the exams regulator, said today it would not provide further guidance on how the additional appeal route would work until early next week.

The change comes on top of amendments to the appeals system announced last week, which allow schools to appeal if they have evidence that grades should have been higher.

Because schools have to appeal on their pupils’ behalf, headteachers are expecting much higher demand for their help, as pupils decide whether to accept calculated grades, take replacement exams in the autumn, or challenge their grades through the appeals process.

School leaders also sounded the alarm earlier over a decision by the exam boards to charge fees for failed appeal attempts this year. Leadership groups had called for the fees to be waived, but all four exam boards today confirmed they will charge schools when appeals are not upheld, to help cover their costs.

Pupils will begin to receive their results from schools and colleges early tomorrow morning, with national results expected at 9.30am.