KATE OSBORNE: Government’s embarrassing exams U-turn is yet another humiliation for Boris Johnson

Today students across South Tyneside will open their GCSE results just a week on from so many of their A-Level counterparts being let down by this government.

Thursday, 20th August 2020, 12:00 am
People take part in a peaceful protest in Parliament Square, London, in response to the downgrading of A-level results. Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Congratulations to those who have done well. I hope all of you, whether you have got the results you hoped for, or not, find a positive way forward for the future.

This Government’s embarrassing U-turn on exams is yet another humiliation for Boris Johnson and his incompetent Cabinet Ministers.

Due to the overwhelming power of students, parents, teachers and teaching unions, the Tories were forced into an embarrassing climbdown.

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Our young people were badly cheated by this Government’s flawed algorithm, downgrading A-Level results by a staggering 40% and, significantly, it was the most deprived areas which suffered the worst! Despite the Government’s apology, it was the last to do a U-turn, on this shambles, following on from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

On Tuesday, I was delighted to speak at the National Education Union organised rally at Newcastle’s Grey’s Monument, in solidarity with those students who worked so hard to achieve their A-Levels, only to be penalised in this way and invalidating years of hard work.

This latest government U-turn would never have happened without the protests from so many young people, the important work of the trade unions and everyone who spoke out and gave the Government no choice but to abandon their algorithm and rely on the skilled assessments of teachers.

But there is still a huge fallout from this unnecessary Tory exercise. Boris Johnson and Gavin Williamson had months to sort out how they were going to make the A-Levels and GCSE exams results process work but unsurprisingly, they have wreaked havoc with the education system.

Families across the North East and the rest of the country have had to endure unimaginable stress, anxiety and frustration. Thousands of students have been affected, many of whom have seen their opportunities shattered as a result. Despite the Government backing down from their monumental mistake, many students still face the disappointment of having their university place deferred, as many institutions announce they are now full.

Since Thursday I have received hundreds of e-mails from distressed students and their families who have, quite rightly, expressed their outrage, their anger, and their upset at seeing their A-Level results marked down as a result of a Tory algorithm set to disadvantage, even further, those from deprived backgrounds. Gavin Williamson’s approach lacked decency, equality, and understanding.

Schools, colleges, teachers, students and their families have all faced an incredibly challenging time in recent months, but I must say they have conducted themselves with great professionalism and dignity. This is a brilliant example of the power of protest and what you can do when you join together to make sure your voice heard.

The exam fiasco should never have happened, and I will continue to keep speaking up for what’s right and fair and for the change our young people deserve.