A-levels row: Government announcement expected later today

The UK government is due to make an announcement on A-level and GCSE results today, as Downing Street said Boris Johnson has “confidence” in his education secretary and the English exams regulator.

Number 10 said the prime minister spoke to Gavin Williamson and other officials on the phone from his holiday in Scotland on Monday morning about the issue.

It added the government was trying to “come up with the fairest system possible”, after complaints from pupils and Tory MPs about the algorithm used to mark those whose exams were cancelled due to coronavirus.

Pupils have protested in Whitehall against the results system

Mr Johnson’s spokesman refused to say if he would follow the approach of Scotland and Wales in ditching the system and grading students according to their teachers’ predictions.

Northern Ireland has also scrapped the system for GCSE students but not those completing their A-levels, although Sky News understands a decision on expanding that to include all pupils is imminent.

“It is a devolved issue, our focus remains on working hard to introduce the fairest system possible for pupils,” Mr Johnson’s spokesman told reporters on Monday afternoon.

Asked if the prime minister had confidence in Mr Williamson, his spokesman said “yes” and added: “Ofqual continues to have the support of the PM.”

Sky News understands an announcement will be made by the UK government later today.

From Thursday: PM defends A-level results as ‘robust’

Downing Street is facing pressure to provide clarity due to fury from some in the Conservative Party about the handling of exam results.

It seems private schools were the biggest benefit of the algorithm which led to claims it had “baked in” inequality.

Former minister Stephen Hammond told Sky News the situation was a “shambles”, while disquiet has even spread to the frontbench – Penny Mordaunt tweeting that she had made her views known to the Department for Education.

Exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic

Tory former education secretary Lord Baker, who drew up the GCSE exam system in the late 1980s, said the algorithm was “flawed” and called for results day this Thursday to be postponed.

“The A-level results have produced hundreds of thousands of unfair and barely explicable downgrades,” he said.

“They have helped smaller private schools but hit the brighter students in a poorly performing state school. It is not surprising that various parties are considering legal actions.”

Mr Johnson last week defended the algorithm, saying it was “robust” and “dependable”.

Asked to repeat those words again on Monday, his spokesman declined to.

Labour is also urging ministers to “bring the exams fiasco to an end”.

“The government must now allow young people to use the grades their teachers predicted at both A-level and GCSE,” shadow education secretary Kate Green said.

The government could also face a legal challenge over the situation.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said he had instructing lawyers and expected to “initiate action” later on Monday.

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