My parents were teachers and so I do understand the dedication of teachers in educating young people. Some teachers and parents have contacted me about this. I have also been in contact with several head teachers to obtain information about this matter as well as education ministers over the last few days.
You may be aware or not of the decision made by Government due to the pandemic not to undertake any public examinations this year. Ministers wanted to maintain a consistent grade attainment between years and avoid significant grade inflation. That was the policy framework under which Ofqual generated its model and it did consult on its approach. Clearly, the scale of anomalies arising from the Ofqual model was much larger than I think anyone anticipated and soon became clear that the appeals process would struggle. It may surprise you to know that Ofqual, as a non-ministerial department, is not directly accountable to ministers but to its Board and Parliament; though ministers do appoint the Chair and Chief Regulator and set policy. A government can choose to be dogmatic on avoiding grade inflation (over 38% of students will get an A*/A A level compared to 25.5% last year) or pragmatic and I am pleased that in this unprecedented year that we have decided that students should receive the higher of the moderated grade or the teacher assessed grade. The same policy will apply to GCSE results this week. I did question why the moderated approach would still be applied. I was informed that it is expected to affect 6% of students and that moderation would help some students attain higher grades where teacher assessment may have been overly stringent.
Regarding next steps for our young people, university caps have been lifted for most courses, including medical and dental. I understand that several universities had offered more places than they have actually the capacity to operate, as per their normal modus operandi. The Universities Minister is leading a new taskforce to co-ordinate this work. One key element is for those students that took their second choice or went through clearing.
If you know of any student that is still keen to attend their first choice, they should contact the university admissions office directly and see if the original offer can be taken up but if any student wants to contact me directly regarding university or apprenticeship issues, then they can email me at email@example.com.
The coronavirus pandemic has created circumstances no one could have ever imagined or wished for but I hope that we have now been able to remove as much stress and uncertainty for young people as possible. I hope we agree that the most important thing now for pupils (and parents) is to get every school fully open at the beginning of September, especially for those going into Year 11 and 13.