Grant Shapps defends exam results after thousands of pupils downgraded

A senior government minister has defended this year’s exam results and says the figures “look good” for the number of students able to go to university this year.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, speaking on the BBC’s Breakfast programme, said that more pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds have been accepted to university than last year.

It comes as thousands of pupils across England expressed their disappointment at having their results downgraded.

A-level adjustments
A-level adjustments

Asked if he would accept that poorer students have been hardest hit by the downgrading, Mr Shapps said: “No, I think again you should go on the evidence here – that’s not been the upshot.

“I was having a look at the numbers and 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, on the basis of the exam results yesterday, 7.3% more are going to university, have been accepted for university, than just last year.”

He added: “The figures show that both disadvantaged, and indeed the overall numbers of students who’ve got 9,000 more university places confirmed than last year, 179,000 18-year-olds accepted already for university, so the figures look good in terms of students being able to go to university this year.”

BBC Breakfast host Charlie Stayt suggested to Mr Shapps that he was discounting statistics indicating that children from the most deprived areas have been hardest hit by results being downgraded.

Mr Shapps responded: “I don’t (discount it), it’s just that I’m reading an actual statistic – 7.3% more children from disadvantaged backgrounds, 18-year-olds, accepted to university this than last year, to which you’re coming back and saying I don’t agree with that, but you’re not providing me any numbers.

“So yes, I do think that more students from disadvantaged backgrounds are going to university and overall, as I say, we’ve got more been accepted to university than previously as well.

“So look, those are the figures. If you’ve got up some other figures then tell me, but that’s the numbers I’ve got in front of me.”

Speaking earlier on the programme, deputy Labour Party leader Angela Rayner said the Government has made an “absolute mess” of school exams grading.

She told BBC Breakfast: “We believe the only option that the Government have got now is to go back to the teacher-awarded grades because they’ve made such a fiasco.

“I mean, if you look at what’s happened over the last 24 hours, a lot of children who have worked incredibly hard have been devastated by a system that’s been completely flawed and has taken into account the school’s previous history rather than what that child’s been able to achieve this year.

“I think that’s devastating and there’s baked inequality in what’s happened.”

She added: “The Government have to act very quickly on this. There’s a lot of young people out there that their life chances are determined by whether or not they’re able to get on and get into university or on to the course or the apprenticeship scheme that they want based on these grades.

“The Government have made an absolute mess of it and they’ve known for months now that this was coming down the track.”