Tory MPs call for ‘disgraced’ and ‘useless’ Gavin Williamson to resign after A-Levels debacle

PUBLISHED: 13:44 14 August 2020 | UPDATED: 13:51 14 August 2020

Education secretary Gavin Williamson outside Downing Street. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson outside Downing Street. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

A number of Tory MPs have called for the education secretary to resign over his mishandling of A-Level results.

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Gavin Williamson is being called on to step down after a “shambolic” handling of 250,000 pupils’ A-Level results across Britain and Northern Ireland.

Williamson was labelled a “disgrace” by some within his own party who described his handling of student grades “a farce” which is “justifying his own sacking”.

Tory-leaning paper, The Daily Mail, blasted Boris Johnson and Gavin Williamson over A-Level results on their Thursday front cover; TwitterTory-leaning paper, The Daily Mail, blasted Boris Johnson and Gavin Williamson over A-Level results on their Thursday front cover; Twitter

The chorus of calls comes after almost 40% of students’ marks were downgraded during the government’s standardisation process, according to official figures released on Thursday.

Ofqual, which regulates school exams, said that 39.1% of the 700,000 teacher assessments submitted in England were lowered by one or more grade during standardisation, compared with just 2.2% of assessments that were upgraded.

Students sitting exams; Gareth Fuller/ PA imagesStudents sitting exams; Gareth Fuller/ PA images

The process, which was brought in as a substitute for exams that were cancelled by coronavirus, gives students a mark calculated from mock exams and teachers’ grades.

Now Tory MPs infuriated by the fiasco are calling on Williamson to resign.

One Tory MP told The Telegraph: “Clearly, they are getting the guillotine ready-made [for Williamson]. The mocks change came at lastminute.com and should have been done weeks ago.”

A former minister said: “He’s clearly seen the chaos in Scotland and is trying to move to prevent that scenario. Instead he’s just made himself look panicky and incompetent. In short, he’s justifying his own sacking.”

A third backbencher added: “It’s a farce, it’s a disgrace, and Gavin Williamson should hang his head in shame and resign. He was a useless defence secretary and even worse education secretary.

“You can forgive track and trace, you can forgive PPE [personal protective equipment], because we were dealing with things we have never dealt with before, but we deal with exams every single year... and we have had six months to get it right.”

However, the minister’s allied said on Thursday night that he had the support of Boris Johnson and hit out at rival MPs’ briefings. One said: “As a former chief whip, he’ll always have some enemies.”

Deputy Labour Party leader Angela Rayner said the government has made an “absolute mess” of school exams grading.

She told BBC Breakfast: “If you look at what’s happened over the last 24 hours, a lot of children who have worked incredibly hard have been devastated by a system that’s been completely flawed and has taken into account the school’s previous history rather than what that child’s been able to achieve this year.

“I think that’s devastating and there’s baked inequality in what’s happened.”

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Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson and leadership contender Layla Moran waded in, branding Williamson “shambolic”.

“The shambolic handling of A-level results has left many young people in crisis,” she said.

“Despite the warning signs from Scotland, the education secretary pushed ahead with plans which ignored teachers’ advice and have disproportionately affected pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Gavin Williamson is an education secretary out of his depth and out of excuses. He must take responsibility for his mistakes and step down with immediate effect.”

Williamson was criticised back in May after backtracking on plans to open schools by June after realising that it was impossible to observe social distancing measures in classrooms at the time.

He was also slammed for failing to ensure disadvantaged pupils had access to remote learning devices.

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