View from the House: An incompetent series of backtracks and bungled announcements
- Credit: PA
I want to send my very best wishes to all the pupils in Hampstead and Kilburn who got their A-level, GSCE and other exam results this month. I know how difficult this year has been, and I hope you got what you wanted to make your next step in life.
The stress that young people have been put through by the government’s catastrophic handling of exam results this year is hard to overestimate. Talented, hard-working pupils who have always done their best and, in many cases, worked tirelessly to overcome disadvantages have had their dreams dashed by an unfair, discriminatory algorithm, which prevented them getting top grades if they went to underperforming schools.
Despite the prime minister’s attempt to distance himself from this system, it was developed at the direction of his government and defended by his ministers in the days after results were announced.
The incompetent series of backtracks and bungled announcements in the days and weeks that followed added insult to injury, leaving many students utterly confused about what would happen to them. I am glad that the government eventually listened to Labour’s call for the algorithm to be scrapped, but their failure to get to grips with this issue prior to results day has also stored up problems for next year’s cohort of university applicants and universities themselves.
Covid-19 has of course caused huge challenges for government, and no one is pretending that any of this is easy. But ministers were warned well ahead of results day that the algorithm would disproportionately downgrade children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and they had an opportunity to change tack after the Scottish Government made similar mistakes weeks earlier.
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The sad reality is that the education secretary and his colleagues were asleep at the wheel.
Their disregard and incompetence has caused untold stress and jeopardised the futures of a generation of young people.
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It has also undermined confidence in the government’s ability to get all children safely back to school next term, which is essential for their wellbeing and education. I will keep fighting to put children and young people at the heart of our recovery from coronavirus.