The Liberal Democrats have called on Boris Johnson to sack Gavin Williamson, criticising attempts to pass the buck onto Ofqual for the exams grading fiasco.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran has called on the Prime Minister to personally apologise to students and warned that the Government’s failure to take responsibility risks further eroding public trust in the exams system.
She accuses the Education Secretary of presiding over a “slow-motion car crash,” listing a number of catastrophic errors including failing to issue guidance for universities and ignoring warnings that a calculated grades system risked bias against disadvantaged groups.
Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran said:
“The Government’s botched handling of this crisis has caused untold distress and anguish to students, with many at risk of losing out on their preferred university place.
“At every turn, the Education Secretary has ignored the warning signs, refused to consult teachers and blamed others instead of taking responsibility. This comes on top of a history of failures from the botched reopening of schools to failing to get laptops to pupils who need them.
“There must be consequences for this catastrophic failure of governance. Gavin Williamson must resign, and if he refuses to go Boris Johnson must sack him.”
Liberal Democrat Group Leader in North East Derbyshire, Cllr Ross Shipman said:
“How many failures in this government does it take before somebody takes responsibility for messing up?”
“What we have seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg as universities have already offered a lot of places out, leaving students in limbo that now do have the grades they were predicted after the latest U-turn.”
“Williamson must go for this epic balls-up that he should have seen from a mile off.”
Notes to Editors:
Layla Moran letter to Boris Johnson.
Dear Boris Johnson,
The botched grading system overseen by your government has caused untold distress and anguish to students and their parents. The U-turn announced at the eleventh hour was the right thing to do, but it has come too late for many who risk losing out on their preferred university place.
This was a slow-motion car crash that the government should have seen coming. There are a number of catastrophic errors that were made in the lead up to and during this crisis, which underline why the Education Secretary’s position has become completely untenable.
- Failure to prepare: The Education Secretary had months to consult with teachers and prepare a system that was fair and balanced. But this week it emerged there was no robust appeals process and no clear guidance to universities on admissions. This failure to prepare is wholly unforgivable. If it was an exam, Gavin Williamson would have undoubtedly failed.
- Ignoring the warning signs: The Education Committee warned in July that a calculated grades system risked bias against disadvantaged groups. Despite this and the warning signs from Scotland, the Education Secretary pushed ahead with plans for an algorithm that amounted to grading by postcode, causing untold confusion and distress and negatively affecting the life chances of countless young people.
- Blaming others: Instead of accepting responsibility for the flawed algorithm, the Education Secretary has sought to blame Ofqual. There are also reports that the permanent secretary for the Department for Education is under pressure from ministers to leave his post. These attempts to pass the buck are completely unacceptable. Accountability for this mess ultimately lies with the Education Secretary, he must go.
- History of failure: This comes off the back of a history of errors including on the botched reopening of schools, the failure to get laptops to pupils who need them and having to be forced to provide free school meals to deprived children over the summer. On all these issues, the Education Secretary has shown himself to be uncaring and incompetent, while failing to take the concerns of parents and teachers on board.
This tragic situation was wholly avoidable. At every turn, the Education Secretary has ignored the warning signs, refused to consult teachers and blamed others instead of taking responsibility. There must be consequences for this catastrophic failure of governance.
Gavin Williamson must resign, and if he refuses to go you must sack him. As prime minister, you must also personally apologise for the shambles that your government has presided over.
The grading by postcode fiasco has already caused irrevocable damage to trust in the exams system. Unless a clear signal is sent that the government is accepting responsibility for this failure, this trust will be eroded further.