Williamson agrees to release some correspondence linked to summer exams fiasco

Gavin Williamson has agreed to release some of the correspondence between ministers and special advisers linked to the summer exams fiasco.

But the Education Secretary stopped short of agreeing to Labour’s demand for full disclosure, claiming this request “fundamentally undermines” the need for open discussions between ministers and officials when developing policy.

Labour tabled a motion which sought to force the Government to provide “all correspondence, including meeting notes, minutes, submissions and electronic communications” connected to the process of awarding qualifications in GCSE, A-level and NVQs in 2020 and 2021 to the Education Select Committee.

It would then be for the committee, chaired by Conservative Robert Halfon, to assess the information and decide what could be made public.

Mr Williamson confirmed he would work with the committee to provide them with the “information they request wherever is possible”.

The fiasco around grading students this summer emerged after Covid-19 caused exams to be cancelled.

Thousands of A-level students saw their results downgraded from their schools’ estimates amid moderation, before Ofqual announced a U-turn allowing them to use their teachers’ predictions.

For Labour, shadow education secretary Kate Green called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Mr Williamson to “come clean” over the awarding of exam grades during the pandemic.

Ms Green warned the “chaotic summer” had “shattered confidence” in this Government among young people, their families and educational professionals.

She told a Labour-led debate: “It’s about what the Prime Minister knew, what the Secretary of State knew and when they knew it.

“It’s about why when faced with concerns about their chosen system, they didn’t do anything to address them.”

Ms Green added: “We can only learn from the mistakes of the summer if the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister come clean and today I offer them the chance to do so.”

But Mr Williamson, who has faced calls to resign and has apologised over the issue, said: “As members of this House will know, policy can be made only through open discussions between ministers, their advisers and departmental officials.

“This motion fundamentally undermines that. Officials must be able to give advice to ministers in confidence.

“I’m appearing in front of the Education Select Committee in person next Wednesday, and I will commit now to working with them to provide the information they request wherever is possible.”