Schools minister admits backtracking on plans to quit after A-Levels fiasco

Schools minister Nick Gibb on LBC radio; LBC, Twitter

Schools minister Nick Gibb on LBC radio; LBC, Twitter - Credit: Archant

The minister for schools has admitted he backtracked on plans to quit following last week's A-Levels fiasco.

Nick Gibb told LBC listeners he had considered throwing in the towel following last week's A-Levels debacle but decided to stay on at the last minute.

Gibb had previously reassured students that the government's system for predicting A-Level results, which consisted of a computer algorithm to calculate grades, was 'fair' while prime minister Boris Johnson called it 'robust' and 'dependable'.

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But following major public backlash, education minister Gavin Williamson announced he was scrapping the model in favour of teacher assessments after almost 40% of results had been downgraded by one or more grades.

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A central premise for using the algorithm in the first place was to avoid grade inflation, however, the system turned out to have benefitted schools with smaller classrooms, typically independents.

Appearing on Nick Ferrari's programme, Gibb said the U-turn had been the 'right decision'.

'It's the right decision given what's happened with the application of the model,' he said.

A visibly frustrated Ferrari interjected: 'Mr Gibb, when we discussed this last week you said it wasn't the right decision because it would debase this year's A-Levels.

'Now you're saying it is the right decision. Do you change your opinion as often as you change your socks?'

Gibb asked what Ferrari would have done in his position.

'If I'd presided over this shambles, Nick, I'd quit. I wouldn't have the balls to stay in post because I'd let too many people down.

'Have you offered to quit?'

Gibb said he 'gave it a lot of thought' after hearing of hard-working students who received poor grades but said it would have been 'the wrong thing to do'.

'There will be an inquiry by the select committee and the statistics authority into these issues and my focus has to be on making sure we put these issues right and young people get the grades that are fair and can move on to the next stage of their career,' he said.

Earlier, Gibb was accused of having made 'flawed' assertions about the grading system on BBC Breakfast.

Touching on news that BTEC results had been pulled by Pearsons, the exams regulator, at the last minute, presenter Charlie Stayt said: 'Here's the thing, your judgement is flawed. You came back on our programme shortly after the GCSE and A-Level results came out to tell us that the system was robust and then it changed.

'Your judgement was flawed. On this occasion, your judgement after the A-Levels and GCSE decision was made is that BTECs, presumably you thought it was still robust because you didn't do anything - your judgement is flawed.'

'Why should people have faith in you and Gavin Williamson?' Stayt put to the minister.

Gibb claimed the government's initial model had not 'disproportionately affected' young people but rather its application had.

'But it's not right, is it? It's wrong,' Stayt added.

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