Government U-turn on A-levels debacle unlikely to stem the anger felt throughout Cambridgeshire and beyond

PUBLISHED: 17:01 17 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:16 17 August 2020

Students wearing face masks take part in a protest outside the Department for Education in Westminster, London over the government's handling of A-level results, university provision and bleak employment prospects. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images

Students wearing face masks take part in a protest outside the Department for Education in Westminster, London over the government's handling of A-level results, university provision and bleak employment prospects. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

“I can’t get the A Level shambles out of my head,” was how retiring executive principal Jason Wing described it.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson. "I am sorry for the distress this has caused young people and their parents but hope this announcement will now provide the certainty and reassurance they deserve." Picture: PA Images

He was commenting ahead of today’s U-turn by the Government that means A-level and GCSE students will have their results based on teacher assessments.

The anger is unlikely to disappear anytime soon.

Mr Wing, stepping down this summer from Neale-Wade, Marc, said Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, despite being in a government identified Opportunity Area, had 51 per cent of grades shifted down by one grade and 9 per cent downgraded by two grades.

“Some of our brilliant and gifted students have suffered most,” he said. “How can this be right?”.

On Twitter this afternoon the NealeWadePost16 account wrote: “At last fairness has prevailed for our A-Level students.

“An apology from Government is required to all students and teachers for the five days of anxiety and stress caused by this terrible situation.

“Remember we are available to help anyone with their next steps. What a relief.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson made the announcement in the House of Common today (Monday).

Students at Neale-Wade Academy in March collecting their grades. Picture: NEALE-WADE ACADEMYStudents at Neale-Wade Academy in March collecting their grades. Picture: NEALE-WADE ACADEMY

Pressure had been mounting on the Government after thousands of pupils had their A-level results downgraded.

The cancellation of exams due to the pandemic, meant grades were awarded on the basis of a system, which was put in place by regulator Ofqual, involving teachers’ estimates, the ranking order of pupils and previous results at schools and colleges.

Almost 40 per cent of A-level students saw their grades adjusted down by one grade or more. It left many with agonising choices on whether to appeal their grades and whether the results will impact their university places.

The way the results were calculated has also angered schools and colleges

Students wearing face masks take part in a protest in Westminster in London over the government's handling of A-level results, university provision and bleak employment prospects. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA ImagesStudents wearing face masks take part in a protest in Westminster in London over the government's handling of A-level results, university provision and bleak employment prospects. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images

Stephen Chamberlain, chief executive of the Active Learning Trust that looks after numerous academies, was equally angered by the Government’s strategy prior to the U-turn.

“What has happened to our sixth form students is shocking and appalling,” he tweeted.

Richard Spencer, executive principal at Ely College and part of the Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust, said that any U-turn needs to be accompanied by the apology “Nick Gibb failed to offer at the weekend”.

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He said: “Students have experienced deep distress and anxiety. This was foreseeable; CAGs could’ve been moderated, inflated centers challenged. The solution is the imperfect outcome of incompetence.”

Chris Staley, head of Wisbech Grammar School, said: “2020 has hugely tested all leaders.

“But we’ve also been given a store of goodwill and understanding because people are sensible and get it. “Every rushed/poor decision spends some of that goodwill. Williamson has exhausted all credit.”

He added: “Statistics are all very well and I understand the desire to be ‘statistically fair’ but not if the results end up being unfair from a ‘human’ perspective.

King's Ely students pictured with their A-Level results. Picture: JORDAN DAY/KING'S ELY.King's Ely students pictured with their A-Level results. Picture: JORDAN DAY/KING'S ELY.

“We should not lose sight of the fact we are dealing with people and young peoples’ lives and, you cannot pigeon-hole people into statistical boxes.”

Cambridgeshire Lib Dem leaders had earlier begun a petition calling for a U-turn on student results.

“Having already had the last key months of their studies disrupted by the pandemic, they now find themselves failed by the government in the issuing of their A-Level results,” they said.

“Grades that young people have worked diligently to achieve have been unfairly stolen from them by a flawed system put in place by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson.

Executive principal of Neale-Wade Academy in March Jason Wing takes to Twitter.Executive principal of Neale-Wade Academy in March Jason Wing takes to Twitter.

“It’s simply not good enough. We call upon Mr Johnson to listen to the voices of the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough who demand our young people get the grades they deserve, not the grades that the government seem to think they can force upon them.

“Students who achieved top grades across the two years of their courses, who were given final teacher predictions that meant they could get on their chosen university course or higher-level apprenticeship, cannot simply be left with broken dreams.”

It was signed by:

Aidan Van de Weyer

Executive principal of Neale-Wade Academy in March Jason Wing takes to Twitter.Executive principal of Neale-Wade Academy in March Jason Wing takes to Twitter.

Liberal Democrat Candidate for Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

Lucy Nethsingha

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Cambridgeshire County Council

Nick Sandford

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Peterborough City Council


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