Published:

Call for urgent A-levels overhaul as grades soar

“The credibility of the A-level system risks being undermined by soaring grade inflation, politicians and education experts warned after yesterday’s unprecedented results. Across all entries, almost 20 per cent were A* and 45 per cent at least A. More than a third of pupils were awarded three A grades. Independent schools scored particularly highly, with 70 per cent of entries from their pupils getting at least an A, and 40 per cent getting an A*. Experts said that urgent reform of the system was needed with Tory MPs and a vice-chancellor among those calling for sweeping changes. Robert Halfon, Tory chairman of the education select committee, said that A-levels should be replaced with the international baccalaureate.” – The Times

  • Ministers consider using numerical system like with GCSEs to ‘reset’ marks after Covid inflation row – Daily Mail
  • Students offered £10,000 to switch medical schools – The Times
  • Girls surpass boys in A-level maths for the first time – The Times

Analysis:

  • Badenoch: rising Tory star poised to replace Williamson as education secretary – The Times
  • How Williamson was forced to allow rampant grade inflation – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

Allison Pearson: Williamson’s ‘Prizes For Everyone’ exam system has made a mockery of our children’s efforts

“Amazing how each generation of children gets cleverer, isn’t it? An evolutionary feat that is all the more miraculous given an apparent inability among our young people to spell or add up. Hundreds of thousands of pupils must be feeling very clever indeed. Outstripping the unbelievable results of 2020, A-level marks went through the roof again, with 44.8 per cent getting an A grade and around a fifth awarded an A*. Almost 13,000 pupils achieved a perfect three A*s, four times the number who pulled off that eye-watering feat in 2019, the last year that externally marked exams were taken. The overall pass rate was a deafening 99.5 per cent. Hang on, was no one allowed to fail? Was there no numbskull so fantastically useless and lazy in all the land that even his own teacher couldn’t bear to paint his abilities in a radiant light?” – Daily Telegraph

>Today:

Ministers backtrack over gas boiler ban

“Ministers could downgrade plans to ban the installation of new gas boilers from 2035 to an ambition to ensure that homeowners do not face significant costs, The Times has been told. The government was considering a ban on new gas boilers at that date to encourage people to buy more environmentally-friendly alternatives such as heat pumps and hydrogen boilers. The announcement is being considered for the heat and buildings strategy, to be published in autumn. It is seen as a key plank of the government target to hit net zero emissions by 2050. Ministers are concerned, however, about the impact on homeowners, given that heat pumps cost £8,000 to £12,000 to install. They hope that the market will drive down prices but are understood to be cautious about “over-committing”.” – The Times

  • Government climate tsar’s dirty secret: he still drives a diesel car – Daily Telegraph

>Today:

Coronavirus 1) Javid orders audit of ‘excessive’ charges by approved Covid test firms

“Companies that offer £20 coronavirus tests on a list of approved government providers but only sell more expensive options could be banned by ministers, The Times has learnt. Companies that fail to deliver results to customers on time will also be forced to give refunds under plans to crack down on rogue providers. Sajid Javid, the health secretary, ordered the competition watchdog to carry out a rapid audit of the “excessive” pricing and “exploitative practices” of some companies offering PCR Covid-19 tests that are listed on the government’s website. The Competition and Markets Authority has been tasked with reviewing the market and drawing up recommendations for the government. It is understood that Javid has asked for them to report by the end of the month.” – The Times

  • Doctors told to stop non-essential blood tests amid equipment shortage – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 2) Teenage boys are 14 times more likely to suffer rare heart complication from Pfizer’s jab, study warns amid growing calls for No10 to rethink plan to inoculate 16 and 17 year olds

“Pfizer’s Covid vaccine may pose more of a risk to boys, a study claimed today amid growing calls for No10 to rethink plans to dish out jabs to children. New research has suggested boys are 14 times more likely to be struck down with a rare heart complication called myocarditis. The data, from the US, will likely fuel an already fierce debate over Britain’s decision to press ahead with inoculating all 16 and 17-year-olds. Last week, the Government’s advisory panel ruled older teenagers should be given their first dose. Ministers plan to invite them before they head back to schools and colleges in September. But health officials have yet to make concrete plans for children to get top-ups. They want to wait for more safety data about myocarditis before pressing ahead.” – Daily Mail

  • Booster doses for next year cost £1bn after Pfizer puts price up – The Times
  • Delta variant has wrecked hopes of herd immunity, warn scientists – Daily Telegraph
  • Merkel to make life harder for unvaccinated Germans – The Times

Coronavirus 3) Ministers accused of mixed messages over office return

“The push by ministers to get civil servants to return to the office has been criticised by the co-chairman of the government’s Flexible Working taskforce. Peter Cheese said ministers had been sending out “mixed messages” on working from home. The taskforce, comprising 20 business groups, trade unions and Whitehall departments, was asked by the government earlier this year to consider how ministers could entrench the flexible-working culture brought about by the pandemic. But this week The Times revealed that some cabinet ministers are planning a “big push” to get their officials back into the office, with at least one department preparing to order its employees to work from their desks for at least three days a week by October.” – The Times

Inquiry into ministers’ use of private communications rather than government accounts will cover WhatsApp and other phone messaging apps

“An inquiry into the use of private communications channels by ministers and officials at the Department of Health and Social Care will cover WhatsApp and other phone messaging apps, it has been confirmed. Concerns over the use of encrypted messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Signal to discuss key policy decisions has previously been raised by campaigning groups. The Labour party has been pressing for more details about the investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after it emerged Health Minister Lord Bethell had recently replaced his mobile phone and that data on the old one may no longer be retrievable.” – Daily Mail

Cameron ‘won Illumina £123m deal after sending Hancock begging letter’

“David Cameron’s employer secured a £123 million genetic-sequencing contract after the former prime minister lobbied Matt Hancock to attend a genomics conference, The Times has learnt. Cameron is a paid adviser to Illumina, a US biotech company that provides gene-sequencing services that can be used to screen DNA for genetic illnesses. In April 2019 he lobbied Hancock, then health secretary, about the conference, saying: “I understand Jay [Flatley, then executive chairman of Illumina] has sent this direct to your office, but I wanted to i) ensure that you had seen it personally; and ii) strongly endorse their invitation to this significant conference.” Hancock agreed to go after receiving Cameron’s letter, having not responded to one from the Illumina executive chairman weeks earlier. Cameron’s letter was written from his taxpayer-funded post-prime ministerial office.” – The Times

Criminals due for deportation pulled from Jamaica flight

“All but 11 of about 50 criminals due to be deported to Jamaica this morning were removed from their flight after last-ditch appeals. The offenders — including a murderer, rapists and paedophiles — were scheduled to leave at 1am. Home Office sources said that the department had been forced to postpone many of the deporations after successful legal challenges. Hours before take-off Jamaica asked Britain to halt the flight because of fears that it would import the Delta variant of the coronavirus. Last night the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged Priti Patel, the home secretary, to “do the right thing and cancel this inhumane deportation flight”. A Home Office source said: “I wonder if the victims would consider their deportation as inhumane.”” – The Times

£300m plan to take back control of Britain’s biggest chip factory from China

“The technology executive leading a white knight bid to take over Britain’s biggest microchip factory has vowed to spend up to £300m on the plant amid a battle to prise it out of Chinese control. Ron Black said a consortium of six companies is ready to step in with a bid for the factory, Newport Wafer Fab, if the Government intervenes to block its acquisition by Shanghai-owned company Nexperia. Mr Black – who ran Imagination Technologies before leaving the British chip business after a bust-up over an attempted board takeover by Chinese investors – declined to directly call for ministers to block Nexperia buying the factory. But in his first public comments on the bid, Mr Black said that all technology deals should be strongly considered on national security grounds.” – The Times

News in brief: