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Voters blast Boris Johnson for his silence on exams fiasco


Voters today send a message to Boris Johnson that his Government must not let down children again by failing to reopen schools next month. 

A Daily Mail poll reveals the depth of feeling about getting pupils back into class full time. A huge majority believe it should be the top priority for ministers. 

Most are even willing to see pubs close, shops shut or even social gatherings banned if that is what is needed for proper schooling to resume. 

The survey also lays bare the scale of anger over the exams fiasco. 

Four in five voters believe A-level and GCSE results were mishandled and more than half want Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to go. A majority fear he is unfit to lead work to get schools back. 

Six in ten say Mr Johnson should have cut short his holiday to deal with the exams chaos that left thousands of students facing days of anguish. 

Voters today send a message to Boris Johnson (pictured on holiday) that his Government must not let down children again by failing to reopen schools next month

Voters today send a message to Boris Johnson (pictured on holiday) that his Government must not let down children again by failing to reopen schools next month

The Daily Mail revealed yesterday that the Prime Minister, who still has not publicly apologised to students and parents, was holidaying at a cottage in a remote corner of Scotland while the exam shambles unfolded. 

Conducted in the wake of the Government’s U-turn over the use of an algorithm to adjust A-level and GCSE results, the poll will make difficult reading for Mr Johnson as he prepares to return to his desk at No10 next week. 

The Conservatives have slipped six points behind Labour on which party is most trusted on education. They were level-pegging at the start of this year. 

An overwhelming 79 per cent of those polled think ministers handled the exams situation badly, including 72 per cent of Tory voters. A total of 54 per cent think Mr Williamson should have resigned. 

Another 68 per cent of voters want Mr Johnson to be more visible as PM. 

Monday’s U-turn allowed A-level students to receive teacher-assessed grades, instead of those set by the algorithm. Ministers also cancelled a plan to use the computer model to adjust GCSE grades. 

JL Partners interviewed 2,027 British adults online in the poll conducted on Wednesday and Thursday (results pictured)

JL Partners interviewed 2,027 British adults online in the poll conducted on Wednesday and Thursday (results pictured) 

The Prime Minister’s approval rating for his handling of the pandemic has tumbled 12 percentage points to -15 over the past three months. Mr Williamson has an even lower net approval rating of -39. Just over half of voters think he is unfit to lead efforts to reopen classrooms. 

Ministers are now under pressure to deliver on their promise to get all children back into school full time from September, with 68 per cent of voters in favour and 14 per cent against. 

Three in four said it should be the Government’s number one priority – if it is safe to do so. Given the choice of whether schools should reopen or pubs remain serving if only one was allowed, 80 per cent said they would choose education. 

Six in ten said they would prioritise getting children back to class over allowing families from different households to meet indoors or in gardens. 

When offered either schools reopening or allowing non-essential shops such as clothes retailers to keep trading, 70 per cent went for the former. 

Four in five voters believe A-level and GCSE results were mishandled and more than half want Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (pictured) to go

Four in five voters believe A-level and GCSE results were mishandled and more than half want Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (pictured) to go

The poll revealed concerns about the possibility of a spike in coronavirus infections in the coming months. Eight in ten expect a second wave in the UK this winter, but only 37 per cent are confident in the Government’s ability to handle it. 

Sajid Javid, the former Tory chancellor, last night warned that not enough had been done to make sure children kept learning through the coronavirus crisis. 

In an interview with The Times, he revealed that he lobbied the Prime Minister to ditch the system that saw thousands of students have their A-level marks downgraded. 

He said: ‘I went to a further education college. If I’d been awarded my A-levels on the basis of an algorithm like that, I wouldn’t have been the first member of my family to go to university.’ 

Mr Javid, who quit his post in February, welcomed the Government’s U-turn on exam results but added: ‘It doesn’t address the underlying issue … that while pupils at the best performing schools had a full timetable of lessons in lockdown, over two million children did almost no home learning at all. We can’t afford to just paper over the cracks.’ 

  • JL Partners interviewed 2,027 British adults online in the poll conducted on Wednesday and Thursday.

Voters demand that Boris gets UK back to work 

By John Stevens Deputy Political Editor 

Ministers should be doing more to get workers back into the office, a Daily Mail poll reveals. Voters fear that Britain’s economic recovery will be hampered if staff continue to stay away from city centres. 

The survey, conducted by JL Partners, found that 47 per cent want the Government to step up efforts to encourage employees back to their desks – compared to 22 per cent who disagreed. 

More than half – 51 per cent – believe civil servants should set an example to the rest of the country by returning to their offices in Whitehall, compared to 21 per cent who said they should not. 

More than half – 51 per cent – believe civil servants should set an example to the rest of the country by returning to their offices in Whitehall. Pictured: Boris Johnson

More than half – 51 per cent – believe civil servants should set an example to the rest of the country by returning to their offices in Whitehall. Pictured: Boris Johnson

Meanwhile a majority (54 per cent) said getting back to the office was important for the economy. The poll suggests strong public support for ministers to get Britain back to work next month as the summer holidays end and schools return. 

The Government scrapped official advice to work from home at the beginning of this month. But efforts to stimulate a return to offices appear to have stalled, leaving many city centres looking more like ghost towns, even at rush hour. 

There are concerns that many shops and restaurants that rely on office workers may not be able to survive. Many businesses are not planning for workers to return to offices until at least the end of the year, while firms including Facebook UK and RBS said staff will not go back until 2021. 

In a boost to efforts to get more employees back at their desks, Matt Hancock earlier this week revealed there has been only a ‘relatively low’ number of workplace infections. Instead new cases are predominantly coming from social gatherings held inside homes, he said. 

The Health Secretary said the Government had ruled out copying France, which is making face coverings compulsory in almost all workplaces as it tackles a resurgence in coronavirus cases. From the start of next month, masks will have to be worn in all shared spaces in French offices and factories when there is more than one employee present. 

Mr Hancock said similar measures would not be introduced on this side of the Channel, adding: ‘The reason is that the evidence from NHS Test and Trace for where people catch the disease is that very largely they catch it from one household meeting another household, usually in one of their homes. 

‘And so it’s that household transmission that is the core group of passing on this virus in this country. The amount of people who’ve caught it in workplaces is relatively low we think from the evidence that we’ve got.’ 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured) said: 'No-one is under any illusions, our economy has been hit hard by the pandemic – but today's retail sales figures are a positive sign of Britain bouncing back'

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured) said: ‘No-one is under any illusions, our economy has been hit hard by the pandemic – but today’s retail sales figures are a positive sign of Britain bouncing back’

Research this month revealed that British office workers have returned to their desks at a much slower pace than staff in France, Germany, Italy or Spain, as they continue to work from home following the lockdown. 

Only a third (34 per cent) of UK white-collar employees have gone back to offices, while in Europe almost three-quarters of staff (68 per cent) have done so, according to the analysis by Morgan Stanley. In a glimmer of good economic news, retail sales bounced back to pre-pandemic levels in July – the first full month non-essential shops were allowed to reopen. 

After falling a record 18.1 per cent in April, sales are 3 per cent above February’s mark according to official data. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: ‘No-one is under any illusions, our economy has been hit hard by the pandemic – but today’s retail sales figures are a positive sign of Britain bouncing back.’ 

However, the Office for National Statistics said a distinct split is emerging as food and online retailers surpass February’s sales figures, while non-food businesses have not. Officials said fashion store sales were the ‘worst hit during the pandemic’ and still 25.7 per cent lower than they were in February. 

Meanwhile, online sales are still more than 50 per cent higher than before the crisis. The online boom has fuelled concerns about the future of the High Street as a string of retailers, including Boots, Marks & Spencer, Pret A Manger and WH Smith have announced brutal job cuts. 

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, warned the ‘survival of many retail businesses hangs in the balance’. ‘The latest ONS sales results mask a crisis under way in some parts of the retail industry,’ she said. 

Separate figures from HM Revenue & Customs also showed the housing market recovered last month. Some 70,710 homes were sold in July, up 14.5 per cent in a month. 

Roger Taylor, Ofqual's chairman, threatened to quit unless Education Secretary Gavin Williamson gave his public backing to the embattled exams regulator

Roger Taylor, Ofqual’s chairman, threatened to quit unless Education Secretary Gavin Williamson gave his public backing to the embattled exams regulator

Ofqual boss told Williamson: Back us publicly or I’ll quit 

By Josh White Education Reporter 

The boss of Ofqual threatened to quit unless Education Secretary Gavin Williamson gave his public backing to the embattled exams regulator, it was reported last night. 

Roger Taylor, Ofqual’s chairman, made a humiliating televised apology to the nation’s teenagers last week after the regulator’s algorithm caused havoc to A-level results. 

But believing that Mr Williamson was blaming him for the fiasco, Mr Taylor threatened to quit, according to The Guardian. 

On Wednesday, he demanded a public statement of support from Mr Williamson, the newspaper reported. It duly arrived, saying the Department for Education had ‘full confidence’ in Ofqual. 

The statement also revealed for the first time that Ofqual had decided to pull the plug on standardisation, not Mr Williamson – despite impressions the minister had given in interviews over previous days. 

‘The decision they took to move from moderated grades to centre assessed grades was one that we agreed with’, the DfE said. In the immediate aftermath of the crisis Mr Williamson repeatedly refused to declare his ‘confidence’ in the regulator until Mr Taylor reportedly forced him to change his tune. 

The first sign that Ofqual would refuse to take the blame lying down came last Monday, after the mayhem of A-level results saw thousands get rejected from their first choice universities. 

Despite Mr Williamson (pictured) saying he received multiple 'assurances', his department were unable to inspect Ofqual's work until it was released to the public last week

Despite Mr Williamson (pictured) saying he received multiple ‘assurances’, his department were unable to inspect Ofqual’s work until it was released to the public last week

Rather than announce he was quitting, Mr Taylor apologised but described how ‘Ofqual was asked by the Secretary of State to develop a system for awarding calculated grades’. 

The roots of the system lie in a letter which Mr Williamson sent on March 31 cancelling summer exams. 

He instructed the regulator to come up with a system that ensured ‘qualification standards are maintained and the distribution of grades follows a similar profile to that in previous years’. 

As in Scotland, Ofqual understood this meant they should preserve existing educational inequalities, rather than seek to stamp them out.

Despite Mr Williamson saying he received multiple ‘assurances’, his department were unable to inspect Ofqual’s work until it was released to the public last week. Ofqual did not respond to a request for comment.

Middle-class students ‘should be forced’ to take gap years

The leader of Ucas has said it ‘is absolutely the right intention’ for universities to prioritise the disadvantaged and let middle class students take gap years if courses fill up. 

Clare Marchant, chief executive of the admissions body, backed a request to vice-chancellors by universities minister Michelle Donelan. 

Miss Donelan said that if courses are close to capacity, universities should ‘where possible try to prioritise those from disadvantaged backgrounds for admission this year’. 

Forced deferrals would therefore be passed on to more affluent students. Miss Marchant told Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think it is absolutely the right intention. We know from all of our survey work that those from most disadvantaged backgrounds really, really worry about money. 

‘And so if they are deferred for a year, or asked to defer for a year, we’re likely to see a drop-off.’ 



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