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‘I suggest you resign’ – former Ofsted chair’s message to Gavin Williamson

Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson in his office at the Department of Education in Westminster. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

A former Ofsted chair has called for education secretary Gavin Williamson’s resignation, amid the continuing lack of certainty over what will replace cancelled GCSEs and A-Levels.

In a letter to exams regulator Ofqual yesterday, Williamson said he would like “to explore the possibility of providing externally set tasks or papers, in order that teachers can draw on this resource to support their assessments of students.”

Speaking on LBC, Nick Ferrari asked the former Ofsted chair Dr Zenna Hopson what she would tell Williamson if he called her to ask how pupils should be assessed. 

“I suggest you resign,” said Dr Hopson. “Your reporter calls it the hokey cokey and it’s way worse than that, because it isn’t a dance, it’s young people’s lives.”

“We have known that this is a possibility for well over a year now, that we may be cancelling these exams.

“We’ve had time to plan, we could have put something in place – not well over a year, or nine months [afterwards] – and they have just relied on ‘let’s do the exams’,” she said.

Dr Hopson called for local solutions: “You have a local moderation board, based on a national framework, overseen by local authorities – that would be fair.”

Asked whether the framework already existed for that, she said: “Yeah. It’s something that Ofqual can easily pull together, because there is an exams framework.

She pointed out that “each school teaches at a different pace, in a different order, so different subjects are covered – and each area has had different degrees of lockdowns, different degrees of viral load, and therefore different degrees of pupil absence.

“So whatever you do nationally is not going to give young people a chance to actually represent what they know and what they’re capable of,” she added.

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