‘Nothing to do with the question!’ Williamson flounders as BBC host blasts grade inflation

Gavin Williamson lays out plan to reduce grade inflation in schools

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Gavin Williamson appeared on BBC Radio 4 where Nick Robinson demanded he answered for grade inflation fears as record numbers of top marks are expected to be awarded as exams were scrapped in favour of teachers awarding marks themselves. The U-turn was made after holding exams were not viable in the midst of the pandemic with many critics saying teachers awarding the grades would not give an accurate representation of attainment. Mr Williamson was asked his opinions on the topic but began to discuss the “difficult” year pupils have had without addressing the question.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Mr Robinson brought up comments made by School Minister Nick Gibb who shared concerns over teacher awarded grades.

He said: “The predicted grades in the eyes of employers and universities, there could also be severe disparities between schools.

“So I asked you again if there is now a situation where roughly half of young people get an A or an A star haven’t you brought about precisely what your own Schools Minister warned against?”

Mr Williamson appeared to ignore the question and replied: “You know, this year is a year that we can’t truly compare to any other year.

“No other cohort of students have experienced a situation where they haven’t been able to go into the classroom for a sustained period of time.

“Not just once but actually twice and we have seen people having different experiences.

“I know that my children be living up near Wolverhampton have experienced more disruption in terms of their education in terms of maybe having to self, isolate…”

But Mr Robinson interjected and had to steer the conversation back to the original point of grade inflation, adding: “But that’s got nothing to do with the question I asked you which is about grade inflation.

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“Let me put another quote to the former chief examiner AQA, these individuals know what you’re saying about the toughness of this year.

“The telegraph was told it’s belittling and demeaning to students to think that everyone gets an A* is right.”

Mr Williamson was asked again what he would do to tackle grade inflation to which the minister said examinations would return to normal for 2022 but some mitigations would be put in place for some students who have been disrupted.

Grade data shows this year, 44.8 percent of students were awarded A/A* grades which is a 6.3 percent increase from last year.

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In 2020, around 38.6 percent were awarded an A/A* grade compared to 2019 where only 25 percent received the same.

Disruptions to the exam period meant many students would be assessed by teachers through mini-exams, coursework, and general attitude in school if it could be backed by evidence. 

These grades would be checked by exam boards with around a fifth of all grades being investigated. 

However, the surge in top grades means university places will in big demand.

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