Williamson ‘was warned’ about risk of exam fiasco…

“Gavin Williamson was warned directly that the A-level and GCSE grading system could lead to hundreds of thousands of students being given the wrong results but decided to push ahead, The Times can reveal. A senior source at the Department for Education disclosed that Sir Jon Coles, a former director-general there, wrote to Mr Williamson early last month to express concerns about the algorithm used by Ofqual. He said that, at best, the model being applied to A-level and GCSE grading would be only 75 per cent accurate, meaning that hundreds of thousands of students would get the wrong grades. In the event Ofqual’s own tests on its algorithm, which were published last week, found that it was 60 per cent accurate.” – The Times

  • Ministers ‘were assured Ofqual algorithm would be fair’ after July warnings – Daily Telegraph
  • Education Secretary ‘offered to quit’, but Johnson refused… – The Sun
  • …although colleagues say he’s ‘on his last life’ – Daily Mail
  • Labour close gap in polls as exam results debacle damages Tories – The Times


  • Committee chief criticises ministers for scapegoating officials – Daily Telegraph
  • Firm linked to Gove and Cummings hired to work with Ofqual on A-levels – The Guardian
  • Royal Statistical Society’s offer to help Ofqual was spurned – The Times


  • Students offered cash to defer university places for a year – The Times
  • Extra UK medical school places to be funded from state coffers – FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Why Williamson should be moved now

…as unions demand next year’s are made easier

“Education union chiefs have today demanded an overhaul of next year’s GCSE and A-Level exams over fears coronavirus could cut school contact time and called for an emphasis shift away from end-of-year exams – because students find them ‘too stressful’. Bosses at the National Education Union (NEU), the UK’s largest teaching union, have written to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, warning new spikes in Covid-19 could lead to ‘further loss of schooling’. The union has warned the Government should already be making contingency plans and have called for changes to next year’s exams, in the hope education chiefs can ‘build confidence’ in the grades awarded. These include reducing the amount of content assessed in 2021’s GCSE and A-level exams, working with teachers to develop a ‘robust’ system for moderated centre-assessed grades.” – Daily Mail

  • BTec results pulled at last minute as UK exam chaos continues – FT
  • GCSE kids ‘need huge Nightingale hospital-style drive to boost 6th form places’ – The Sun
  • Schools ask for block on grade appeals – The Times
  • Third of GCSE pupils are to get top grades – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Feel for the students and pupils who must cope with this chaos as best they can

Stephen Glover: Johnson’s silence on this exam fiasco heaps arrogance upon incompetence

“The mystery is why the Prime Minister should let him get away with it. It’s possible he won’t, of course. Enveloped in Scottish mists, and struggling to keep Wilfred amused, he may be unaware of the extent of the damage Mr Williamson has inflicted on the Government. More likely, he genuinely believes no great harm has been done. He probably thinks this is another media frenzy — he has witnessed his fair share of them over the years as a newspaper columnist —which will soon pass over. There has been a pattern of insouciance since he became Prime Minister. Possibly influenced by his journalist-despising chief adviser and effective deputy, Dominic Cummings, he doesn’t like being told what to do by the media.” – Daily Mail

  • Our exam obsession is a blight on society – James Mariott, The Times


  • Gaping chasm between rich and poor pupils shows why schools must reopen – The Sun

UK rail fare freeze considered ‘to tempt back passengers’

“The government is considering scrapping the annual rail fare increase in January in an attempt to coax people back on to trains as passenger numbers remain heavily depressed following the slump after the coronavirus lockdown.  Officials confirmed ministers were looking at freezing ticket prices for 2021 but no decision had yet been made as the government continued to grapple with multiple issues thrown up by the pandemic. “It’s in the mix,” said one official. “It’s a negotiation and not a decision for now. We need to look at projections and wait and see the landscape.” A possible freeze on fares was first reported by The Times. Annual ticket price rises for regulated fares, including season tickets, are based on the retail price index for July, which was published on Wednesday and increased 1.6 per cent last month.” – FT

Johnson’s plan for setting up parliament in York rejected

“Boris Johnson’s proposal to move parliament to York while the Palace of Westminster is repaired has been rebuffed. MPs and peers agreed in 2018 to a plan that would see them move to temporary facilities near the existing site — a “full decant” — to allow essential repairs and upgrades to be made to the Victorian buildings. That plan is being reviewed amid concerns over the cost, estimated six years ago as approaching £4 billion. A revised costing is not expected until parliament agrees the way forward. The prime minister called for a review of the multibillion-pound overhaul of Westminster to consider the move to York in a letter disclosed by The Times last month. He told the restoration and renewal sponsor body and the delivery authority that he wanted it to assess the city as a possible location to accommodate both houses of parliament during the works.” – The Times

  • Programme’s warning follows interventions from both Speakers – Daily Telegraph

Pompeo puts pressure on UK to help tighten Iran sanctions

“The United States last night heaped pressure on Britain to back its move to reimpose sanctions on Iran, questioning whether the UK “supports allowing the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell weapons”. A senior American diplomat demanded clarity on Boris Johnson’s position. Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, will today invoke a rarely used mechanism at the United Nations to try to levy economic sanctions on Tehran. Mr Pompeo is due to attempt to trigger a “snapback” of all the UN sanctions on Iran that were eased as part of the 2015 nuclear deal. He is expected to submit a complaint citing Iran’s non-compliance with the terms of the deal, regarding Tehran’s stock of enriched uranium.” – The Times

>Yesterday: Matt Kilcoyne in Comment: CANZUK is a bold, imaginative, and popular blueprint for a global Britain

Justice minister ‘accused over Nightingale courts’

“Ministers have been accused of wasting millions of pounds on “Nightingale courts” that are not being used while they continue to sell traditional court buildings and fail to invest the proceeds in the justice system. Last month, Robert Buckland, QC, the justice secretary, announced a deal for ten makeshift courts — including in a medieval knights’ chamber in Peterborough — as ministers try to clear the backlog of criminal cases. Weeks later, however, only two of the venues were open and had begun cases. This week four more have opened but the remainder are on hold. When the first of the two Nightingale courts opened, one of them, Prospero House in London, was operating only two of its three courtrooms during its first week. One opened on one day for less than one hour. The government has so far failed to disclose the cost of the ten courts but it is estimated that the rent will be millions of pounds.” – The Times

  • Manchester bomber will escape whole life sentence ‘because judge’s hands are tied’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Call for trials without juries amid fear that crisis will put criminals on streets – The Times


  • Smaller juries or judge-alone trials may be needed to solve the problem – The Times

Sturgeon’s chief mandarin reported to her boss over refusal to answer question

“Nicola Sturgeon’s chief mandarin has been reported to the head of the civil service after refusing to say on oath whether she knew of an informal ban on female civil servants working alone with Alex Salmond. Leslie Evans, giving evidence on Tuesday to MSPs investigating a botched internal probe against Mr Samond, said she “cannot comment” on claims that female staff members were advised not to be alone in his company when he was First Minister. During Mr Salmond’s trial, which resulted in his acquittal, a civil servant claimed rotas were changed in 2014 to prevent female staff being left alone with him in his Bute House residence, although such a policy was never written down and Mr Salmond has denied its existence. Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, yesterday wrote to the head of the UK civil service to ask whether Ms Evans, the Scottish Government’s Permanent Secretary, had broken rules by refusing to answer the question.” – Daily Telegraph

  • First Minister told of allegations against predecessor earlier than thought, inquiry told – The Guardian
  • Salmond sells major stake in his TV company ‘to help pay legal bills’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Met closes inquiry into former First Minister with no further action – The Guardian

Scotland’s health secretary under fire for management of NHS

“Nicola Sturgeon’s health secretary came under fire tonight over her management of her cabinet portfolio today. Ms Freeman was probed after she admitted there will be a “significant impact” on patient waiting times in operations in the coming months. Meanwhile, it was also questioned as to why contact tracers were unable to find a large proportion of people who are supposed to be in quarantine.” Speaking in Holyrood today, Jeane Freeman said up to 50 percent of all operating theatre use could be affected by the ongoing need for infection control. Speaking to MSPs on efforts to remobilise the health service in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, she also warned that the plans could cause anxiety to many patients.” – Daily Express

  • Sweden records highest death tally in 150 years in first half of 2020 – The Guardian


  • Public Health England is the new scapegoat for the government’s failings – Stephen Reicher, The Guardian

>Today: Meghan Gallacher in Local Government: The Scottish Government must deliver a recovery plan for councils

Wales issues ‘stark warning’ over UK internal market

“Plans by Boris Johnson’s government to pass legislation to underpin a new UK internal market after the end of the Brexit transition period will “accelerate the break-up of the Union”, the Welsh administration has said. The stark warning was issued following a review by Cardiff of the Conservative government’s white paper outlining plans for the UK internal market. The document published last month was denounced at the time as a “power grab” by the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales. While the pro-independence Scottish National party holds power in Edinburgh, there is a pro-Union, Labour-led administration in Cardiff. In a letter to Alok Sharma, the UK business secretary, the Welsh Brexit minister Jeremy Miles accused the Westminster government of undermining the established norms of consultation with the devolved administrations.” – FT

  • Sturgeon celebrates skyrocketing poll as Johnson on alert in fears of break up of UK – Daily Express


>Today: Tom Harris in Comment: Scottish Labour’s continuing capitulation to nationalism reeks of political desperation

>Yesterday: Adrian Mason in Local Government: Welsh disillusionment with devolution gives the Conservatives an opportunity

News in Brief:

  • Accepting teachers’ grades doesn’t solve the problems, it shifts them – Ben Gadsby, CapX
  • Should Williamson resign as a career move? – Charles Moore, The Spectator
  • Why ‘CANZUK’ is an absurd fantasy – Aris Roussinos, UnHerd
  • A workable CANZUK might be illiberal and unAmerican – Ben Woodfinden, The Critic
  • Lockdown shone a spotlight on the UK’s thriving online drugs market – Liz McCulloch, Reaction