Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on Boris Johnson to fix the A-levels crisis in England – demanding the PM holds a press conference to explain how he intends to right the “historic injustice” suffered by pupils who had grades marked down.

Reports suggest the government is planning to make an announcement on the exam grades later this afternoon. Sir Iain Duncan Smith is one of several Tory MPs now calling for the algorithm used to mark down A-level grades to be abandoned.

It comes as Northern Ireland’s executive said GCSE students’ grades would be decided using teachers’ assessments, while the Welsh government said both GCSE and A-level students will have grades decided by their teachers.

No 10: Brexit deal with EU still possible next month

The government is still confident that a Brexit deal with the EU can be reached in September, a No 10 spokesman has said.

Ahead of the latest round of negotiations in Brussels this week, the spokesman said the government will “continue to plug the gaps where any differences remain”.

It comes amid fears of a deadlock between the UK and the EU, with both sides admitting after the last talks in London in July that they still remain some way off reaching a post-Brexit trade agreement.

Looking ahead to the next trade negotiations which begin on Tuesday, the No 10 spokesman said: “There are many issues that will be discussed during this week’s round, not least level playing field, fisheries, trading goods and services amongst others.”

After last month’s talks, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said a deal looked “at this point unlikely” given the UK position on fishing rights and post-Brexit competition rules. Barnier said the UK had not shown a “willingness to break the deadlock” on these issues.

Two-thirds of graduates say degree boosted career

There’s been plenty of chat on social media in recent days about people pulling themselves up by the bootstraps after mucking up their exams and the change to go to university. So how useful is university?

Almost 90 per cent of graduates say it was worth going for the knowledge gained, while two-thirds said it had improved their career prospects.

NEW: Welsh government drops algorithm for A-levels and GCSEs

A-level and GCSE grades will now be awarded to students in Wales on the basis of their teacher assessments, the Welsh government has said.

The Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams confirmed A-level, AS, GCSE, Skills Challenge Certificate and Welsh Baccalaureate grades in Wales will now be awarded on the basis of Centre Assessment Grades.

Williams said: “I am taking this decision now ahead of results being released this week, so that there is time for the necessary work to take place. For grades issued last week, I have decided that all awards in Wales, will also be made on the basis of teacher assessment.

“For those young people, for whom our system produced higher grades than those predicted by teachers, the higher grades will stand.”


Pupils march on Gavin Williamson’s office

Dozens of students demanded the hated algorithm-moderated grades are dropped have set off on a march from Codsall Community School in Staffordshire to the education secretary Gavin Williamson’s constituency office on Monday.

The students loudly chanted “trust our teachers” and “you’re having a laugh, Gav” on their half-mile trip.

Some of the crowd held signs with the word “U-turn” and one had a sign with Gavin Williamson pictured as a clown with a multicoloured wig and a red nose. One member of the public cheered the group, saying “go on kids, show them”.

All the students wore masks as they marched towards the office. Cars beeped their horns in support of the protesters and others stood outside their homes to clap the demonstration.

Almost all students had signs – one displaying the message “Boris! Have the courage to admit you got it wrong”.

Pupils march on Gavin Williamson's office (PA)

A-level changes need to be ‘radical’ – more Tory MPs turn on government

More Tory MPs pile on the pressure. If the announcement expected at 4pm is anything less than a U-turn allowing teacher assessed grades to be used, it looks like the government has a full-blown backbench rebellion on its hands.

Sir Bob Neil, Conservative MP for Bromley and Chislehurst, tweeted that “if a fair and robust appeal system cannot be put in place within the next 24 hours, with a cast-iron guarantee that appeals will be concluded before 7th September, then we should revert to the centre assessment grades pupils received”.

“Each of those affected is a young person with their own ambitions and hopes for the future. Our response should adequately reflect that with the urgency the situation deserves,” he added.

Sir Roger Gale, Tory MP for North Thanet, tweeted: “Given the huge disquiet surrounding the year’s A-level Results. I believe the time has come for teacher recommendations for this year only. Regarding the fact, this will lead to qualification inflation.”

Tory former minister Steve Brine said the government needs to make a “radical” announcement on exam results today.

Speaking to the BBC’s World at One, he said: “I think that the announcement this afternoon needs to be and will be radical … our young people, they’re not a system, they are not a computer model.”

No 10 doesn’t rule quarantine for Croatia and Greece

The government has refused to deny that Croatia and Greece could be added to the 14-day quarantine list, following reports they are next on a list of possible restrictions. A No 10 spokesman said: “We continue to keep these rules under constant review and we publish a list of the countries and territories that we are concerned about.”

Asked whether Greece and its islands would count as one country for quarantine rule purposes, he added: “As I say, we will continue to keep data for all countries and territories under constant review. We update the list on a weekly basis.”

Pushed on the limited time between new quarantine measures being announced and their implementation, the No 10 spokesman said: “We’ve always said that protecting public health remains our top priority, which is why it is important that when we make changes to the exemptions list we do so in a swift way.”


PHE facing the axe? No 10 will ‘act now to ensure structures are fit to cope’

The government will “continue to work closely” with Public Health England amid reports the body is to be scrapped, a spokesman has said.

“We believe PHE have played an important role in our response to this pandemic and have worked on important issues such as detection, surveillance, contact tracing and testing, and we’ll continue to work closely with them,” a No 10 spokesman said.

Asked whether the government has asked any outside consultancies for advice on whether to shut down Public Health England, he added: “If you look at the road map and the wording, what we say around structures, we’ve been clear we must learn the right lessons from the crisis and act now to ensure structures are fit to cope with future epidemics.”

Downing Street rules out delaying GCSE results

"We will not be delaying GCSE results," the prime minister's official spokesperson told reporters.

Downing Street also said that Boris Johnson has confidence in education secretary Gavin Williamson and Ofqual chief Sally Collier.

Boris Johnson takes momentary break from holiday in bid to stem A-level crisis

Boris Johnson has broken off from his holiday in a bid to try to stem the growing crisis over this year’s exam results, No 10 has confirmed, hinting the controversial algorithm that has led to misery for thousands of pupils could be ditched.

He held a meeting with education secretary Gavin Williamson and Ofqual, the exams regulator, this morning, phoning in from the start of his week-long break in Scotland.

The prime minister’s official spokesperson said the government continued to work “to come up with the fairest system possible”.

'There are too many clear injustices': Government minister appears to hint at U-turn on exam results

In a post to "young people in Plymouth" on Facebook, defence minister Johnny Mercer wrote: "I am acutely aware of the issues around A-level results and am equally concerned for the GCSE results on Thursday.

"As someone who spends so much time in the schools and colleges in my constituency, and someone who strives endlessly to improve opportunities for young people from Plymouth, you can imagine my views, which I have made very clear within government.

"I do not believe this is the end of the story - there are too many clear injustices. At this time we must not panic, and await developments. I am limited in what I can say publicly - I have had many private conversations.

"Rest assured my views and motivations in politics do not change with the winds of Ministerial office or the like; I am your MP, on your side, and as I have demonstrated many times before, not afraid to show it.

He added: "Let's see what happens in the coming days."

Minister seeks urgent meeting with Department for Education

Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt said she was “seeking a further meeting today” with the Department for Education after speaking with students and parents about exam results.

“I will be supporting colleges in their appeals, working to ensure those who have the grades on appeal can go to uni this year if that is what they want,” the paymaster general tweeted.

“This group of young people have lost out on so much already, we must ensure that bright, capable students can progress on their next step. Delaying a year won’t be an option, and it shouldn't be an option. For many it will mean falling out of education.”

Mordaunt added: “I have also made my views on GCSE results known to DfE. Will be posting updates later today.”

‘Something fundamentally wrong,’ says Tory MP

And another Tory MP joins the chorus of criticism. Former minister Jake Berry said on Facebook he “would have liked to have seen more weight given to the predicted grades made by teachers”.

He said he had written a letter to Gavin Williamson highlighting the case of a school in his Rossendale and Darwen constituency, noting “some students will have been incredibly disappointed with their results and the way they have been awarded”.

The letter told Williamson: “All of the indicators that the school are providing me with suggest that there is something fundamentally wrong with the standardisation model at the centre level.”

Berry added: “From a personal point of view, I would have liked to have seen more weight given to the predicted grades made by teachers … I believe this would be a more than acceptable predictor of how well a student could have performed in an exam setting.”


Government U-turn on the way?

Reports suggest the government is planning to make an announcement on the exam results mess later today at 4pm.

18 Tory MPs ‘concerned’ by A-level grading

The backlash keeps on building. At least 18 Tory MPs have raised concerns about the A-levels moderated grading (including four influential select committee chairs), according to The Times.

MP Oliver Heald said: “It seems that the Ofqual algorithm is a blunt instrument and has adversely affected schools and colleges with large 6th forms. I am pressing the government to urgently make changes to the system.”

U-turn on A-levels ‘absolutely inevitable’ says former Ofsted chief

Sir Michael Wilshaw said the government should now accept teacher-predicted grades to end confusion over A-level results. The former head of Ofsted told the BBC: “Well, I think it is inevitable, absolutely inevitable.”

He added: “Of course we’re all worried about standardisation, of course we’re all worried that there shouldn’t be rampant grade inflation, but, look, our poor children, the great majority of children have suffered hugely over the last six months, particularly poor youngsters, and if we err on the side of generosity now, no-one will blame the government for that and no-one will blame Ofqual for that.

“This is an exceptional year. So we should follow the Northern Ireland example and the Scottish example and say that we will accept the estimated grades.”


Tories turn on government over A-levels fiasco

Sir Robert Syms, Poole MP, said he would be “happy” for the algorithm that moderates teachers grades to be scrapped – and GCSE grades to be awarded on teachers’ assessments alone. “I just think the government haven’t looked at the whole picture here,” he told Times Radio earlier.

He also said: “People voted for Boris to run the country, not an algorithm … In Scotland they got themselves in a hole then got out. We seem to have gone headfirst in and are still digging.”

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the algorithm-awarded A-level grades should be abandoned, with teacher assessments or mocks used instead.

“No algorithm is going to sort our problem out, it’s a human issue,” he told LBC Radio.

Former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson also said: “This is not just one of these bubble issues. This is something that cuts through everything. MPs should be telling the chief whip, including conservative MPs, that this will absolutely be one of the things that, even people who don’t even pay attention to politics, will be all over because this is their child’s future.”

Tory MP Stephen Hammond, meanwhile, echoed former education secretary Lord Baker and suggested that pushing back the GSCE results – due this Thursday – “probably is the right thing to do”.

Government hails ‘great start’ in recruiting for future vaccine trials

More than 100,000 people have volunteered for future coronavirus vaccine trials in the UK.

Researchers have urged people to keep signing up – especially if they are over the age of 65, or from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background.

The government has said it aims to get as many people as possible signed up to the NHS Covid-19 Vaccine Research Registry by October, so large-scale vaccine trials can begin.

Kate Bingham, the chair of the government’s vaccine taskforce, said it was a “great start”.

“We need many more people from many different backgrounds that we can call on for future studies if we are to find a vaccine quickly to protect those who need it against coronavirus,” she said.

Government ‘has not made ferry industry aware’ of quarantine rules

Britain’s ferry firms say they have not been told of a government ruling that UK-bound travellers lose quarantine exemption if they sail back from France or the Netherlands.

Both countries were removed from the list of exempt nations on Saturday.

British holidaymakers driving back from countries such as Germany, Switzerland and Italy can avoid the need to self-isolate for 14 days if they drive straight through a “high-risk” country such as France, Belgium or the Netherlands.

Some motorists had hoped that driving straight through from Germany and boarding a ferry at a French or Dutch port immediately would save them having to self-isolate on return to the UK.

But the Department for Transport (DfT) has told The Independent that because the occupants of a car must leave the vehicle before sailing – for safety reasons – they are deemed to have mixed with others while the ship is tied up in a French or Dutch port. 

Our travel correspondent Simon Calder has the details:


‘Utterly untenable’ for Tory government to deny IndyRef 2 says Sturgeon

Next year’s Holyrood election will be the most important in Scotland’s history, according to first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

With the SNP fighting to win a record fourth term in power, she said voters will be presented with a “stark choice” between her party and the “utterly regressive” Conservatives in the May 2021 ballot.

She also made clear the SNP manifesto for the election will include a commitment to hold a second Scottish independence referendum and insisted it will be “utterly untenable and unsustainable” for the Tory government at Westminster to deny such a vote in the event of an SNP victory.

Her comments come after opinion polls suggested the SNP could be on course for an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament - and that a majority of Scots now favour independence.

Writing in Holyrood Magazine’s 2020 annual review, the first minister said she will “relish the chance to return to politics as normal once circumstances allow, especially as we look ahead to next year’s election”.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon (Reuters)

Independent SAGE scientists condemn ‘plan to scrap PHE’

Reports over the weekend indicate health secretary Matt Hancock is ready to scrap Public Health England, and set up a new replacement body as soon as September.

The Independent SAGE group of scientists – highly critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic – has said it’s a bad idea.

The group said this morning that it “does not agree with the course the government appears to be taking”, adding that the move could “destroy the confidence of public health staff”.

Professor Gabriel Scally said: “The government needs to be aware of the risks involved in undertaking major organisational restructuring in the midst of this public health crisis.”