03 September 2020 - Education Secretary Gavin Williamson blamed for UK exam results fiasco
Gavin Williamson to blame for England exams fiasco, says Ofqual chair
Richard Adams (The Guardian, 02/09/2020)
Ofqual’s senior leadership told MPs that Ofqual should not be blamed for the fiasco that engulfed this summer’s exams in England, and accused the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, of causing the weekend of chaos that followed the publication of A-level results.
Roger Taylor, Ofqual’s chair, said Williamson directly called the regulator to tell it to scrap new guidelines on appeals just hours after they had been approved by the Department for Education (DfE), including Williamson’s office, and published.
Taylor also revealed that Ofqual told the government in March that awarding grades using a statistical model was “the worst-case scenario”.
‘Worst-case scenario’: Government pushed forward with flawed A-level algorithm despite other options, exams chief says
Zoe Tidman (The Independent, 03/09/20)
The government went ahead with the controversial exam results algorithm despite England’s exams regulator warning it was the “worst-case scenario”, Ofqual‘s chair has said.
Roger Taylor said England’s exam regulator “initially advised against the cancellation of exams” as the government was trying to work out what to do amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“At the outset, our initial advice to the secretary of state was that the best way to handle this was to try and hold exams in a socially distanced manner,” Mr Taylor told the Commons Commons Education Committee.
British Grading Debacle Shows Pitfalls of Automating Government
Adam Satariano (The New York Times, 20/08/20)
Even after a final term with schools closed for the pandemic, Sam Sharpe-Roe was optimistic about the coming school year. Teachers from his West London school had given him grades — three A’s and one B — that were strong enough to secure him a spot at his first choice of university next month.
But after the British government used a computer-generated score to replace exams that were canceled because of the coronavirus, all his grades fell and the college revoked his admission.
Mr. Sharpe-Roe, along with thousands of other students and parents, had received a crude lesson in what can go wrong when a government relies on an algorithm to make important decisions affecting the public.
Gavin Williamson, Ofqual and the great A-level blame game
Christopher Byrne, Kevin Theakston and Nick Randall (The Conversation, 21/08/20)
The debacle that saw tens of thousands of young school-leavers having their A-level results downgraded by an algorithm and missing out on their first choice university illustrates what can go wrong when ministers try to offload responsibility for important policy decisions on government agencies. It also puts into sharp focus how badly it can backfire when the resulting policies go awry.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by the decision to use an algorithm to award exam results during the pandemic. It is well known, by now, that Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser, fetishises “the data” and has more than a passing penchant for mathematical modelling. But there is something strange about the fact that a Conservative government would so readily seek to place the life chances of hundreds of thousands of young people at the mercy of such predictive models.