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It was a "fundamental mistake" to believe a controversial algorithm initially used for A-level and GCSE results would "ever be acceptable to the public", the head of the exams watchdog has said.

Roger Taylor, chair of Ofqual, launched a full-throated defence of the body's role in the exams fiasco during an appearance before MPs.

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Williamson 'deeply sorry' over exam results chaos

The issue also dominated exchanges between Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer during the first PMQs of the new parliamentary term.

Mr Taylor told the education select committee that the body advised the government against cancelling this summer's exams because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Ofqual suggested to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson that they be held in a "socially distanced manner" due to COVID-19, Mr Taylor added, or if not to delay them.

"The third option – if neither of these were acceptable – would be to have to try and look at some form of calculated grade," he told the committee.

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Mr Taylor added: "It was the secretary of state who then subsequently took the decision and announced without further consultation with Ofqual that exams were to be cancelled and the system of calculated grades were to be implemented."

He said the government was warned that cancelling exams and opting for calculated grades would be the "worst-case scenario".

Mr Taylor told MPs that the situation was "rapidly getting out of control" and policies were being put forward by Mr Williamson that "weren't consistent with our legal duties".

Labour's shadow education secretary Kate Green said the evidence raises "serious questions" about the education secretary's role in the exams furore.

"Gavin Williamson has repeatedly tried to blame Ofqual and officials for the crisis over exams. It is now clear he was responsible," she said.

People take part in a protest outside Downing Street in London over the government's handling of A-level results. Thousands of pupils across England have expressed their disappointment at having their results downgraded after exams were cancelled due to coronavirus.
PM blames 'mutant algorithm' for exams fiasco

"Williamson must urgently come to the Commons to offer an explanation and to take responsibility for his own incompetence."

Mr Williamson has resisted calls to resign over the row, but told Sky News last month he is "incredibly sorry for the distress" caused to students.

He said up until A-level results day he had "every confidence" the algorithm would not penalise disadvantaged students.

But over the following weekend, when he said "it became clear there were anomalies", the government U-turned and reverted back to using teachers' Read More – Source