Ofqual chief Sally Collier has quit in the wake of the A-level results fiasco which saw ministers forced into a U-turn on grades.
The exam watchdog said its under-fire chief regulator had “decided that the next stage of the awarding process would be better overseen by new leadership” after shelving a controversial process which saw nearly 40% of students’ grades revised down in the wake of exams being cancelled by Covid-19 restrictions.
“The Ofqual Board has agreed temporary support arrangements with Ofsted to support the ongoing work on this summer’s GCSE, A level and vocational qualifications, including appeals and autumn exams, and preparations for next year’s exam season,” an Ofqual statement said on Tuesday.
“The Chief Regulator, Sally Collier, has decided that the next stage of the awarding process would be better overseen by new leadership.
“The Ofqual Board supports Sally in this decision, and thanks her for her leadership and service over the past four years, which has included overseeing the successful introduction of an entirely new set of GCSEs and A levels, and a new grading system.”
Responding to the announcement, Mr Williamson said: “I’d like to thank her for her commitment she has shown to the role over the last four years and wish her well for the future.”
Education secretary Gavin Williamson four times refused to say whether he had confidence in Sally Collier, the head of exams regulator Ofqual – which was behind the botched algorithm.
But headteachers said ministers themselves should have been on top of the situation and called for an immediate review of the episode.
“What we’re doing is we’re focusing on delivering the grades for those children,” Mr Williamson said when it was put to him that he should quit.
“We’re going to make sure that all schools are returned and I’m absolutely determined over the coming year that I’m going to be delivering the world’s best education system.”
But Mr Williamson rounded on his civil servants, saying that Ofqual “didn’t deliver” and arguing that its assurances were not matched by “robustness”.
The secretary of state refused three times in the interview to say whether he had offered his resignation to the prime minister.
The Association of School and College leaders wrote to Mr Williamson on last Tuesday calling for an inquiry into what went wrong.
“There is an urgent need for the Department for Education to commission an immediate independent review which will rapidly establish exactly what went wrong with the process for awarding grades to A-level and GCSE students this summer, and to publish its findings and recommendations,” Geoff Barton, the organisation’s general secretary, said.
“This degree of transparency is necessary at a time when public confidence has been badly shaken. It seems to be clear that the statistical model for moderating centre-assessed grades was flawed, and that it produced many anomalous results. But how did this happen, why were the problems not foreseen, and why were ministers not on top of this?”
Mr Barton continued: “Most importantly, what lessons can we learn for the future? While the government plans for students to sit GCSEs and A-levels next summer, there is currently no plan B if there is widespread disruption because of coronavirus.
The buck stops anywhere ‘but’ at the ‘Education Secretary s’ door.
Sally Collier departure follows calls for Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to be sacked after thousands of students faced turmoil after initially losing out on university places, before the Government ditched the algorithm it has used for grading and instead allowed pupils to rely on teacher-assessed grades.
The education secretary has been facing calls for his resignation from his own party following his chaotic exams U-turn, as he is branded ‘wholly unsuitable’ for the job.
The education secretary himself dodged questions on breakfast television about whether he should resign, as some Conservatives such as former minister Sir Nicholas Soames have suggested.
Gavin Williamson was forced to apologise and promise A-level and GCSE students that their grades could be based on teachers’ predictions, unless the grades produced by a controversial algorithm are higher. The country-wide fury over his handling of the exam results has plunged his role into jeopardy, with MPs believing the prime minister will axe him when he reshuffles his Cabinet this autumn. But there are already murmurings that he should be ousted much sooner over Monday’s fiasco. MailOnline reported that one former minister said: ‘He can’t hang around until autumn. He is a lame duck now.’
Boris Johnson on Monday apologised for the “distress and anger” caused to students, but has so far stood by the Cabinet minister ahead of a planned reopening of schools in England next week.
And, speaking about the row on Tuesday, he said those who had completed their A-levels and GCSEs amid coronavirus restrictions were “in many ways the remarkable generation”.
“Yes, you know if we had to do it again, we might have done some things differently, I’m certainly not going to deny that,” the Prime Minister said.
“But they’ve got a series of results that they can certainly work with and use to develop their careers.”
Dame Glenys Stacey, Ms Collier’s predecessor in the role, will take on a “temporary leadership role” at Ofqual as acting chief regulator until December 2020, the government said.
“If required, Ofsted will also provide additional staff to support Ofqual during the autumn, as they have been supporting other government departments through the summer,” the department added.
“Taken together these arrangements will ensure that Ofqual has the extra capacity, support and oversight it needs both to tackle the remaining issues from this year’s awarding process and to ensure that next year’s arrangements command public confidence.”
Ms Collier had been due to appear at a session of the Education Select Committee next week, with the cross-party group of MPs promising to press the chief regulator and Ofqual’s chair Roger Taylor on “what went wrong in the awarding of grades, where responsibility lies and how and why problems with the standardisation model were not identified earlier”.