Gavin Williamson met with Ofqual to ‘talk about results’ twice in the two days prior to the controversial A-level announcement this summer – despite suggesting he was unaware of problems with the results until after they were published.
A Freedom Of Information request from Schools Week revealed the education secretary met with Ofqual on August 11 and 12 prior to the results day on August 13.
All in all, Williamson attended 10 meetings with Ofqual over results between March 18 and August 13, while schools minister Nick Gibb attended 16 meetings.
The findings, likely to form an important part of any future inquiry into the exams fiasco, seem to challenge claims from ministers they were unaware of problems until after results came out.
Williamson previously told journalists: “Over the weekend [after results day] it became apparent to me, with evidence that Ofqual … and external experts had provided, that there were real concerns about what … [grades] a large number of students were getting … and whether that was a proper and fair reflection of their efforts.”
Williamson’s meeting on the Tuesday before results day was titled ‘Talk about Results’. While the specifics of what was discussed at the meetings is not known, Ofqual is expected to soon publish its long-awaited board minutes that will shed more light.
The board minutes have since revealed that Ofqual also met with Williamson on July 9th to share a “high-level preliminary overview of the summer 2020 results to date. This is an unusual step, but judged as appropriate in the exceptional circumstances of summer 2020,” the minutes added.
Department For Education officials attended 154 Ofqual meetings overall, including 55 specific ‘DfE/Ofqual catch-ups’ on the 2020 exams.
The grading fiasco prompted nationwide outrage when it was discovered 39.1 per cent of pupils’ grades in England were downgraded – with those in lower income areas particularly affected.
A separate FOI, seen by Schools Week, also revealed that key Ofqual staff – including then chief regulator Sally Collier – were only informed about the government’s “triple lock” policy – a plan for pupils to appeal based on their mock grades – on the day it was announced.