Friday, 25 Sep 2020

Ken Clarke defends Gavin Williamson on A-level chaos and tells MPs ‘nobody thought of it!’

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The former Chancellor of the Exchequer told TimesRadio that during the five months since the pandemic started no journalist or MP provided an alternative solution to using an algorithm to assign A-level grades to students. Mr Clarke admitted that nobody was going to accept missing out on their university place due to an algorithm. 

Mr Clarke said: “Have you found a journalist or MP who during the five months said this is no good?

“Once you hear that it was an algorithm then you should anticipate that there is going to be the most almighty row, particularly when nobody before or since made any serious effort to explain the algorithm.

“When he said he didn’t want grade inflation everyone agreed with him.

“Everybody agrees there has been too much grade inflation, it is far too easy now compared to what it was like ten years ago to get an A* and an A.

“Just imagine you lose your place at your university because of an algorithm, nobody is going to accept that.”

He continued: “Somebody should have thought about that over the course of the five months, as far as I can see nobody did.

“In his defence, who else thought of it?”

Earlier this monring Gavin Williamson received a savage grilling from Sky News host Niall Paterson on the A-level exam result fiasco that affected 40 percent of students’ results.

The Sky News host rubbished Mr Williamson’s claim that he only became aware of the challenges of the algorithm this weekend. 

Mr Paterson asked: “When did you first become aware of the problems with the algorithm?”

The Education Secretary said: “It became apparent that there were challenges within the algorithm when we saw the results directly coming out over the weekend.

“We had got concerns before, when we saw what happened in Scotland, we wanted to have a more robust system put in place.”

The Sky News journalist replied: “So this weekend? That is just not the case is it?


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“The Education Select Committee took evidence back in June about the negative effects this system would have on disadvantaged students.

“They published the report in July, saying there was a risk it would lead to unfair bias and discrimination against already disadvantaged groups.

“There was modelling showing 40 percent of A-level results would be affected by this system in a negative fashion back in July as well.

“The idea that you were not aware of this until the weekend simply does not stand up.

“Your ignorance is not a defence here Mr Williamson, in fact it appears to be the biggest crime.”

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