A-level results chaos: Gavin Williamson must ‘carry the can’

Boris Johnson insists he has ‘confidence’ in Gavin Williamson as ‘ineffectual’ Education Secretary faces calls to quit over A-level results shambles

  • Gavin Williamson under growing pressure over handling of A-level results chaos 
  • Number 10 insisted Boris Johnson does have confidence in Education Secretary
  • But some MPs believe Mr Williamson should quit, labelling him as ‘ineffectual’
  • Former Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw said Mr Williamson must ‘carry the can’ 

Gavin Williamson was today warned by school chiefs that he must ‘carry the can’ for the Government’s A-level results debacle as Boris Johnson stood by his under-fire Education Secretary. 

Opposition MPs have called for Mr Williamson to quit over his handling of the ongoing grades row while Tory backbenchers have described him as ‘ineffectual’. 

Downing Street this lunchtime insisted Mr Johnson has confidence in his Cabinet minister.

Conservative MPs have warned they are ready to go ‘on the warpath’ unless the Government gets a grip on the situation, with a grades U-turn widely expected by the end of today.  

The row was sparked after a controversial algorithm was used to calculate A-level grades. 

The method meant many pupils saw their predicted grades downgraded with critics calling for the algorithm to be ditched and for results to be determined based on teacher assessments instead.   

Gavin Williamson is under pressure over his handling of the A-level results chaos as opposition MPs called for him to quit 

Students took part in protests in Whitehall and outside Mr Williamson's constituency offices in South Staffordshire (pictured today) as they called for an algorithm used to determine results to be scrapped

Students took part in protests in Whitehall and outside Mr Williamson’s constituency offices in South Staffordshire (pictured today) as they called for an algorithm used to determine results to be scrapped 

Mr Johnson, who is on holiday in Scotland, held a conference call with Mr Williamson and officials this morning in order to figure out how to assuage teacher and student anger.  

Asked if the PM has confidence in Mr Williamson, Mr Johnson’s deputy official spokesman said: ‘Yes. The whole Government has been working hard to come up with the fairest system for pupils.’  

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the former Ofsted chief, said ultimately responsibility for the ‘terrible farce’ rested with Mr Williamson. 

Sir Michael told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘There has to be political responsibility. Like all things, at the end of the day somebody has to carry the can and the politicians, the political leaders have to carry the can.

‘The great danger for Gavin Williamson at the moment is he is losing confidence – he is losing the confidence of head teachers around the country who have seen this happen.

‘He hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory over the pandemic period with all sorts of changes of direction, saying that primary schools would be open when they obviously couldn’t be under the social distancing rules, saying that every poor child would receive a laptop and obviously that didn’t happen, the school meal voucher system wasn’t working.

‘He is losing the dressing room, if you like.’ 

There is growing fury among Tory MPs about the Government’s handling of the row. 

Sir Robert Syms, a Tory MP, told The Times: ‘What’s happening was avoidable. We saw what happened in Scotland, they got themselves in a hole then got themselves out. We seem to have gone headfirst in and are still digging.

‘There is real risk of Tory MPs going on the warpath.’

Another Conservative backbencher told the newspaper: ‘The problem with Gavin is he’s ineffectual. If you had someone strong they would have challenged this sooner.’

The Liberal Democrats have called for Mr Williamson to quit. 

‘Gavin Williamson is an Education Secretary out of his depth and out of excuses,’ Lib Dem MP Layla Moran said. 

‘He must take responsibility for his mistakes and step down with immediate effect.’ 

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