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A-level results 'mess' was 'unavoidable' says Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson


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A Kent MP has admitted the government’s handling of A-level results is a mess amid a growing backlash from teachers and students.

Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson said the government was determined to ensure students had the right to appeal if they felt their results had been unfairly downgraded.

There continues to be mounting criticism of the government and Ofqual over the way students have had their results calculated.

Exams were scrapped because of the pandemic and, in their place, the regulator adopted an approach using a complex algorithm - which resulted in thousands of students getting lower grades than they had expected.

Mr Henderson made his comments on the latest edition of “Paul on Politics” on KMTV.

Asked if he thought the government approach had been correct, he said: “There's no doubt about it, it is a mess but that was unavoidable, frankly.

"Once you have abandoned exams you have to find an alternative system and the only way you could do that was to accept the grades made by the school.

Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP, Gordon Henderson
Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP, Gordon Henderson

"By its very nature, that has to be monitored to ensure that schools are not over-inflating their results.

“I am very sorry for those students in my constituency who feel they have lost out and I have encouraged them to use the appeal system.

"Frankly, the only other option would have been to allow them to sit their exams and that would have been unacceptable because it would have put their health and their teachers’ health at risk.”

The government has faced a growing backlash over the results and it is not yet clear how the appeal system will work.

Meanwhile, ministers have announced that there will be no charge to schools or students who decide they want to challenge results, regardless of the outcome.

Cllr Vince Maple, Labour, Medway Council. Picture: Medway Council
Cllr Vince Maple, Labour, Medway Council. Picture: Medway Council

Speaking on the same programme the opposition Labour group leader on Medway Council Cllr Vince Maple said: “This has been an absolute shambles and the government had several months to get it right.

"There are several other alternatives that the government could have put in place that Michael Gove scrapped, like AS levels.

"I want to see a return to teachers’ grades, which is happening in Scotland.”

Schools in Kent have had mixed fortunes, with some seeing wide variations in the grades predicted and the results announced this week.

Cllr Richard Long (Con), Kent County Council’s cabinet member for education and skills, vowed to write to the Education Secretary demanding an urgent investigation.

Cllr Richard Long
Cllr Richard Long

He said: “Colleagues and I are very aware of serious concerns in Kent, and indeed throughout the country, about the A-level and other post-16 qualifications results students received.

"Discussions with schools and initial feedback from head teachers suggest there are many groups of students who did not receive the grades they and their teachers believe they should have done.

"This has raised considerable concerns around the methodology used to award grades this year and in many cases the grades appear to bear little resemblance to student ability or to the Centre Assessed Grades (CAG) awarded by schools.

“I wish to reassure students, their families and school staff that Kent County Council and I are taking this matter extremely seriously.

"Early next week we will be contacting all schools in Kent and asking them for thorough feedback so we can conduct a detailed analysis, understand the extent of the problem and discover whether any specific cohorts of students have been unfairly disadvantaged.

"I want to be certain that every student in Kent has been awarded the correct post-16 grades."

“As soon as we have a clear picture of the issues with post-16 results in Kent, I will write to Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson setting out our concerns and asking him to urgently investigate.

“We will continue to work with and support schools, and lobby Central Government, until this issue is resolved.

"I want to be certain that every student in Kent has been awarded the correct post-16 grades and can continue onto university, college, an apprenticeship course or into employment without their education being negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Nationally, an estimated 40% of A-level entries where downgraded. The government has responded by saying the outcome of mock exams could be used to challenge their results.

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