Boris Johnson has been warned that he risks “robbing” a generation of young people of their future amid fears thousands of students will be marked down in their exam results on Thursday “on the basis of their postcode”.
Sir Keir Starmer’s comments – on the eve of A-Level results day for students across the country – follow warnings the replacement grading system introduced after the coronavirus lockdown could deny students results they believe they deserve.
Ministers are already bracing for a backlash from students and parents when the results are published after Nicola Sturgeon apologised to pupils in Scotland after tens of thousands were marked down – a decision that has since been reversed.
Last month, regulator Ofqual confirmed that the standardisation process would also draw upon schools’ historic exam performance — leading to claims poorer students in the most disadvantaged areas could be worst affected.
Sir Keir, the Labour leader, is now calling on the prime minister to introduce urgent help for students to correct their grades, with “credible appeals and resits” if they feel they have been unfairly marked.
His party is also urging the government to outline which students are likely to be the worst affected by the grading model being used and said publishing details now could aid universities’ admission processes.
Speaking ahead of the publication of A-Level results, Sir Keir said: “Pupils and parents are rightly worried that years of hard work are about to be undone because a computer has decided to mark their child down.
“For too long, the Tories have considered the needs of young people as an afterthought when their needs should have been central.”
He added: “It’s a blatant injustice that thousands of hard-working young people risk having their future decided on the basis of their postcode. Unless Boris Johnson acts, he risks robbing a generation of young people of their future.”
During a visit to a school earlier this week, the prime minister said he understood the “anxiety” from students about to receive their standardised results, adding that he was “very, very keen” that GCSE and A-Level exams should go ahead as normal next year.
After the publication of results in Scotland last week, Ms Sturgeon was forced to apologise to pupils after a similar system used to calculate grades prompted anger from students and parents after nearly 125,000 entries were downgraded.
“Despite our best intentions, I do acknowledge we did not get this right and I’m sorry for that,” the Scottish first minister said as she acknowledged the burden had not fallen equally across the country.
The decision was reversed on Tuesday, with the country’s education secretary John Swinney announcing that the 124,564 exam results downgraded by a controversial moderation process will revert to grades estimated by pupils’ teachers.