In Brief

Gavin Williamson warned against ‘scapegoating’ officials over A-level chaos

Education secretary insists he will not resign amid reports that senior officials are facing sack

Gavin Williamson is being urged to announce an independent inquiry into the A-level grading fiasco after being accused of “deflecting” blame for the chaos onto officials. 

The education secretary is resisting calls to tender his resignation and has instead pointed the finger at exam regulator Ofqual for using a controversial algorithm that resulted in almost 40% of A level results being downgraded

However, The Times reports that the Department for Education’s (DoE) permanent secretary Jonathan Slater is lined up to take the fall for the exams disaster. Sally Collier, the chief regulator of Ofqual, may also be facing the chop, after Williamson “repeatedly refused to say” yesterday that he “had confidence” in the watchdog boss, the newspaper adds. 

A former minister told The Telegraph that Slater “may well be collateral damage”, while a government adviser added that he “might well be No. 10’s fall guy”. 

“It is not at all fair.... it seems that all officials are fair game. But once you start blaming officials you are finished,” the unnamed ex-minister warned.

Another Tory MP added that while “the vultures are circling” Williamson, the education secretary is “a master of finding someone else to chuck under a bus”.

Meanwhile, former DoE permanent secretary David Bell described the targeting of officials as “depressing, demotivating and disreputable”. 

“In the interests of fairness, natural justice and proper accountability it’s important that there is a proper independent look at what’s happened so everyone concerned can learn lessons,” Bell told The Times. “I have great concerns that scapegoating is happening here. I don’t think it’s conducive to good government.”

The call for an independent inquiry “came as Conservative MPs stepped up briefings against Ms Collier, who has led Ofqual since 2016”, PoliticsHome reports.

Robert Halfon, who chairs the cross-party Education Select Committee, said: “If they had a shred of decency, every single one of the board, including the chair and chief executive, should resign.”

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