A U-turn over the controversial system for awarding A-level results in England appears imminent after Tory MPs heaped pressure on Boris Johnson and education secretary Gavin Williamson to change course.
Downing Street refused to rule out a shift to a Scottish-style system based on teachers’ predicted grades rather than an algorithm aimed at standardising results.
Johnson has gone on holiday to Scotland this week despite the chaos over the A-level results but held talks with Williamson and senior officials on Monday morning.
In an indication that the grades awarded last week may not be the final results, a Number 10 spokesperson said “the government continues to work hard to come up with the fairest system possible”.
Signs that Williamson would announce changes later on Monday came as senior ministers went public with their criticism of the system, which was put in place by regulator Ofqual after A-level exams were cancelled due to coronavirus.
Paymaster general Penny Mordaunt said she was seeking a meeting with colleagues at the Department for Education (DfE) about the issue and had made clear that if students wanted to sit the exams in the autumn there should be no fee.
“This group of young people have lost out on so much already; we must ensure that bright, capable students can progress on their next step,” she said.
The minister added that she had also “made my views on GCSE results known to DfE”.
Defence minister Johnny Mercer said he was “acutely aware of the issues around A-level results and am equally concerned for the GCSE results on Thursday”.
In a hint that a U-turn was coming he said: “I do not believe this is the end of the story – there are too many clear injustices.
“At this time we must not panic, and await developments. I am limited in what I can say publicly – I have had many private conversations.”
Any U-turn could also apply to GCSEs ahead of the results of those qualifications being awarded on Thursday.
Conservative former education secretary Kenneth Baker urged ministers to delay the publication of GCSE results, due on Thursday, until the problems with A-levels have been resolved.
In the north of Ireland, education minister Peter Weir has said GCSE students will be awarded the grades predicted by their teachers.
Downing Street said there would be no delay in the publication of GCSE results.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?