Middle-class children may be forced to take gap year

“Middle-class children may be forced to take a gap year after ministers told universities to favour poorer children where places were tight. Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, has told vice-chancellors that all students should be guaranteed their first-choice course if they have the grades, although they can be told that they must defer until next year. The government has provided money to fund an increase in the number of places. Ms Donelan said in a letter: “Where possible, try to prioritise those from disadvantaged backgrounds for admission this year.” The instruction comes after the government was accused of failing deprived children with its algorithm for assessing A-level grades.” – The Times

  • Delays to Btec results threaten degree hopes – The Times
  • Students promised place at first choice university – FT
  • Missed algorithm warnings that led to A-level results chaos – Daily Telegraph
  • Ofqual chief to face MPs over exams fiasco – The Guardian

Portugal dropped from quarantine list

“Portugal has finally been ruled safe for travel by the government, with airlines and holiday companies expecting a surge in bookings from Britons desperate for a late summer getaway. Additional departures to the Algarve are likely over the next week, just in time for the August bank holiday weekend, after the decision to take Portugal off a list of “high-risk” countries. The country is one of the leading destinations for British holidaymakers, traditionally attracting 2.1 million each year, although it has been off limits since the lockdown started. Last night the Foreign Office changed its travel advice, approving non-essential journeys from Britain for the first time since March.” – The Times

  • Portugal holidays back on, but Croatia struck from quarantine-free list – Daily Telegraph
  • Holidaymakers race home from Croatia – The Sun
UK virus reports
  • Birmingham teeters on virus knife edge – The Times
  • Consultants’ advice on new health body cost £560K – The Times
  • Local lockdown threat as tracers report national rise in virus cases – The Times
  • Lockdown fears for Birmingham amid sharp rise in UK coronavirus cases – The Guardian
  • Virus hospital admissions inflated at height of pandemic – Daily Telegraph
  • Call to extend help for renters as end of eviction ban looms – The Times
  • Homelessness tsar ‘steps back’ from government role – BBC News

UK offers ‘desperate’ draft deal to break Brexit logjam

“Britain has tabled a draft free-trade agreement with the European Union to try to unblock stalled Brexit negotiations, according to diplomats. Government sources have refused to confirm its existence but The Times has learnt that David Frost, Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator, handed over a “consolidated legal text” at a private dinner in Brussels this week. Classified as a secret negotiating text, it is regarded by EU officials as a desperate move. “It is the British under time pressure,” a senior Brussels source close to the negotiations said, noting that the government had previously ruled out such a draft.” – The Times

Frost stuns EU by putting forward major new plan – Daily Express

Nelson: Backbenchers are running out of patience

“Politicians are always brutal about each other’s failings, but some of the verdicts about Boris Johnson’s government in recent weeks set new levels of obloquy. “A circus run by clowns,” one MP tells me. “The most inept government in living memory,” says another. Abuse has long been the language of parliament. But what makes it different this time is that these are all Conservative MPs talking about a Conservative government – and one that’s supposed to be in its honeymoon period. Strange times.” – Daily Telegraph

  • JPMorgan banks on Javid’s experience – FT

Maude to lead review of Cabinet Office

“A Conservative party grandee has been given the job of reviewing the effectiveness of the Cabinet Office as part of Boris Johnson government’s efforts to shake up the UK civil service. Francis Maude, a former Tory minister and member of the House of Lords, has been asked by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove to examine the department’s performance and its relations with other Whitehall ministries. Officials in 10 Downing Street, including Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s chief adviser, have privately accused the Cabinet Office of being sluggish and ineffective in its role in responding to the coronavirus crisis.” – FT


Ministers plan more smart motorways despite safety concerns

“More smart motorways will be outlined today as the government introduces a specialist unit to accelerate road and rail upgrades. At least seven new routes without a hard shoulder will be approved to improve 4,000 miles of English roads. Highways England will renew its commitment to a tunnel under Stonehenge, pending the outcome of a review by Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, which is due to end in November.” – The Times

Biden accepts nomination and vows to end ‘season of darkness’

“Joe Biden vowed to unite a deeply divided America and lead the country to “overcome this season of darkness” as he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday evening, a long-sought moment that came more than 30 years after he first ran for president. Biden, 77, denied the chance to accept the nomination before a roaring crowd due to the pandemic, delivered the most consequential speech of his nearly half a century in public life from a silent ballroom inside the Chase Center, near his home in Wilmington, Delaware, on the last night of the virtual Democratic national convention. He said. “I will be an ally of the light, not the darkness.” – The Guardian

And finally, PM pictured with ‘tepee’ on holiday in Scotland

“Throughout the extraordinary exams fiasco, his is the crucial voice that has not been heard. Boris Johnson chose not to interrupt his holiday to offer solace to those who have endured days of deep uncertainty over their future. Since the weekend, Mr Johnson and fiancée Carrie Symonds, 32, have been holidaying in a remote three-bedroom cottage on the Scottish coast. And it appears the Prime Minister has lived up to reports that he would spend a few days of his summer holiday camping – as a tepee-style canvas tent has been pitched near the hideaway home.” – Daily Mail

News in Brief