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Government “rips up exam system to give pupils ‘triple lock’ on grades”

“Students were given a ‘triple lock’ on their A-level and GCSE grades last night as ministers ripped up the system in the wake of the Scottish exams fiasco. Just 36 hours before A-level results are released, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said students could now opt for the grades they got in their mock exams. It means A-level students can choose between the marks they get awarded tomorrow – which are based on teacher assessments and a computer-generated ‘standardisation’ model – or their mock results. If they are not happy with either of those, they can sit the exam in the autumn, with the Government covering the cost for schools. Mr Williamson was forced to offer the unprecedented ‘triple lock’, which will also apply to GCSE pupils, after Nicola Sturgeon performed a U-turn on Scotland’s exam results.” – Daily Mail

  • Schools to be given £30 million to pay for invigilation and any other running costs – The Times
  • Tens of thousands of pupils in Scotland to see their exam results bumped up – The Times
  • Williamson under pressure to follow Scotland’s lead and ensure all A-level pupils receive their predicted grades – Daily Telegraph

>Today:

Allison Pearson: Give the Class of 2020 the grades they deserve

“‘I’m scared for Thursday.’ The brief text from a friend that pinged on my phone in the small hours of yesterday morning needed no further explanation. Parents across the country will be experiencing the same gnawing knot in the gut, the same foreboding. My friend’s twins get their A-level results tomorrow. Both are predicted good grades and should make their university offers. But, in the present chaos, who knows? Because schools were closed unnecessarily back in March by panicking politicians, egged on by a hysterical media, Olivia and Ned, and millions of other pupils, were not allowed to prove what they could do – even though there is not a single recorded case in the world of a teacher being infected with Covid by a pupil and, let’s face it, very few activities are more socially distanced than an exam in a school hall.” – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 1) Lockdown obliterates jobs at the fastest rate since financial crisis

“Jobs were lost during lockdown at the fastest pace since the financial crisis a decade ago, official figures show. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says that employment fell by 220,000 between April and June, the steepest fall since May-July 2009, when 254,000 jobs were lost. The scale of the downturn is likely to be even greater, and ONS analysis of tax data shows that between March and July the number of people on payrolls fell by almost 750,000. “We always knew that this was going to be a tough time for people,” Boris Johnson said on a visit to Herefordshire yesterday.” – The Times

  • UK officially in recession for the first time in 11 years – BBC
  • Infections rise among people of working age – The Times
  • Flu kills five times more than Covid – The Times
  • Europe’s economic winners and losers from the Covid crisis – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 2) Children are safe, insists Boris Johnson as study points to school virus risk

“Boris Johnson insisted yesterday that schools can return safely if there is “discipline” about Covid-secure rules as ministers attempted to distance themselves from an official study that warned of higher risks for secondary pupils. After research by Public Health England suggested that older pupils did catch Covid-19 from each other, the government said precautions already taken in schools assumed that children transmitted the virus like adults. Preliminary findings from the study in more than 100 schools contradicted blanket assurances from government that it was safe for all pupils to return next month, with unions saying that “overhyped claims only serve to undermine trust and confidence”.” – The Times

  • Obesity “raises risk of hospital admission for virus” – Daily Telegraph
  • Cases and hospitalisations rise in France as UK considers quarantine – Daily Telegraph
  • Removing Portugal from travel quarantine list would be a “gamble” say industry experts – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 3) Councils to pick up the bill for test-and-trace services

“Councils have been told to pay for local contact tracers themselves as health chiefs pleaded for help to put “boots on the ground” to track coronavirus cases. A third of NHS Test and Trace’s call centre staff are to be laid off and the rest deployed regionally to work with councils, in an acknowledgement that the system has not been fighting local outbreaks effectively. Council public health directors are pressing for a share of the service’s £10 billion budget to hire staff. Ministers are resisting handing over any money, saying they will offer councils extra testing and dedicated clinical call handlers but that it is up to local authorities to pay for their own staff.” – The Times

  • As health chief warns there may not be enough contact tracers to knock on doors – Daily Telegraph
  • Adviser in £150 million PPE scandal is axed – The Times

>Yesterday:

Coronavirus 4) 10 million claims for meals under Eat Out to Help Out scheme

“Diners used the chancellor’s meal deal discount 10.5 million times in the first week of the “eat out to help out” scheme as the cost of government job support rose to more than £44 billion. Under the scheme, which will last all month, businesses can claim up to £10 per person back on all food and non-alcoholic drinks sold on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The Treasury said that HM Revenue & Customs had received 10.5 million claims in its first week at an average of £5 each, bringing the cost to £50 million. The government has budgeted for £500 million but the scheme will cost less than half that, at £225 million, extrapolating from the first week.” – The Times

Sunak weighs up whether to shelve his autumn Budget

“Rishi Sunak is weighing options to shelve his autumn Budget — billed as the defining economic moment for Boris Johnson’s government — if Britain is hit by a big second wave of coronavirus. While the chancellor expects to deliver his Budget as planned, it is a sign of government anxiety over a possible autumn Covid-19 spike that he is ready to delay big public spending decisions until after the crisis. Fears over a surge in unemployment when Mr Sunak’s furlough scheme ends in October add to his concerns. The Office for National Statistics on Tuesday said Britain had shed almost three-quarters of a million jobs since the start of the lockdown, with ministers braced for many more losses in the autumn. Debenhams, the department store group, was on Tuesday just the latest of a series of employers to unveil job cuts, saying 2,500 staff would go on top of 4,000 already announced.” – FT

Johnson losing confidence of public on trade

“People are losing faith in Boris Johnson’s ability to deliver game-changing trade deals after Brexit that can create jobs and prosperity, according to internal government research. A study into public attitudes towards potential trade deals found growing scepticism about their benefits and increasing hostility to any deal that might reduce environmental and animal welfare standards. Support for a trade deal with America had fallen by 10 per cent in a year with about a third of the public concerned that it would reduce food standards and undermine the NHS. The research found that for the first time a majority no longer believed trade agreements would lead to more UK jobs — only 42 per cent believed it would do so, down from 51 per cent a year ago.” The Times

Refugees “would rather die than fail to reach Britain”

“Migrants preparing to cross the Channel in small dinghies warned today that they would throw themselves overboard if the Royal Navy tried to force them back. Families living in refugee camps said that the Channel would become a sea of bodies after Boris Johnson pledged to counter a surge in the number of boat crossings. Kamal Sadeghi, 39, a Christian convert from Iran, his wife, Niki Karimi, 33, and their daughter, Sava, who celebrates her first birthday on Sunday, have spent ten days living in a tent in woodland close to Calais central hospital.” – The Times

>Today:

Online political campaigning to become more transparent

“The UK on Wednesday outlined proposals designed to bring greater transparency to online political campaigning by requiring imprints on digital content. Civil society groups welcomed the move but said many more steps were needed to make the online political space more resistant to exploitation. Under the government’s proposals, paid and digital content promoted by political parties, registered third-party campaigners, candidates, elected officials and registered referendum campaigners, would need to show who was responsible for its production and publication. Other campaigners would only require digital imprints in cases where they had paid for promotion, in order to protect the right to free speech.” – FT

UK trade talks stall with Japan over blue cheese demands

“Talks between Tokyo and London over a new trade deal have hit a snag after Liz Truss, UK trade secretary, insisted on bringing Stilton cheese into the negotiations. Both sides came close to an agreement in London last week, but Ms Truss is holding out for a better deal for British food, with a particular focus on attempts to boost sales of blue cheese in Japan. The dispute reflects the “cars for cheese” trade talks between the EU and Japan ahead of last year’s agreement between the two economic superpowers. But while the UK is aiming to largely mirror that deal, Ms Truss is hoping a symbolic Stilton cheese “win” will show the UK is able to secure a better deal than the one obtained by the EU.” – FT

Joe Biden makes history by picking Kamala Harris as running-mate

“Joe Biden last night chose Kamala Harris, a California senator with whom he clashed during her rival presidential campaign, to be his running-mate against President Trump. Ms Harris, 55, would be the first female or black vice-president. The daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, she makes history as the first non-white woman on a presidential ticket. Mr Biden’s age — he would be 78 on inauguration day, becoming America’s oldest president — means that she instantly becomes a strong frontrunner to be the next Democratic presidential candidate.” – The Times 

News in brief:

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