Sunday 8 August 2021 / 9:54 AM Keir Starmer

Failing young people’s futures “not an option” Labour Leader warns as he sets out three tests Conservatives must meet by 31 August

Failing young people’s futures “not an option” Labour Leader warns as he sets out three tests Conservatives must meet by 31 August

Today [Sunday] Labour Leader Keir Starmer has warned the Conservatives that a second year of results chaos which fails to protect young people’s futures is “not an option”, as he sets out tests the Government must meet by 31 August.

Ahead of a crunch week for young people all over the country, the Labour leader is pressing the Prime Minister to “show some leadership, step-in and ensure his inept government does not cost young people their future opportunities.”

Recalling his own experience of getting A-level results, Starmer is calling for a ‘next step guarantee’ so no young person is denied education, training or employment opportunities due to the Conservatives’ failures.

Leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer said:

“I have a very vivid memory of the day I got my A level results – of the pressure, nerves and worry that my entire path could be determined by what was on that sheet of paper. It frustrates me immensely that this week’s big moment in so many young people’s lives is being risked by the chaos and incompetence at the top of this government.

“This abject refusal of Boris Johnson to get a grip has created huge extra stress for students and baked unfairness into the assessment process. Young people and our dedicated education staff have worked incredibly hard, but they have been let down time and time again by Boris Johnson’s failure to stand-up for their futures.

“No young person should lose out because of Conservative chaos which is why we are calling on the Prime Minister to fix this mess his Education Secretary has created and deliver on our three tests so all young people can move onto the next stage of their lives.”

Last summer’s results fiasco saw students’ future plans plunged into chaos by the Government’s algorithm which downgraded thousands of students, penalising high achieving students from disadvantaged areas most, with hundreds changing plans or being forced to defer.

Despite this chaos, the Conservatives have failed to learn from their mistakes and get plans in place early this year. In the Autumn term, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson dismissed calls from Labour, teachers, parents and pupils for a Plan B on exams, telling Parliament that he was “absolutely certain” exams would happen this year, before cancelling them due to the Government failing to halt the spread of Covid infections.

The Conservatives’ dither and delay has put huge pressure on pupils and teachers, who have stepped into the void and acted as exam boards alongside teaching and supporting their pupils. The teachers and schools have done a remarkable job considering the circumstances, but the government’s system and its refusal to address inevitable inequalities has opened the door to unfairness. While flexibility to account for disruption was necessary, the accompanying lack of almost any central standardisation has seen some students taking over 20 exams while others have done just a couple. Research suggests this is advantaging private school pupils, while teachers in deprived areas were most likely to report the support received to award grades is insufficient.

The Education Secretary has been unable to allay students’ concerns about unfairness. Williamson has lost the trust of pupils, parents and teachers who have seen him bounce from one crisis to another, clearly not up to the job.

Labour has set out three tests the Government must meet before 31 August:

  • A ‘next step guarantee’ for pupils – the government must work with universities, colleges, training providers and employers to ensure that all young people can move on to the next stage of their lives. With private schools reportedly already lobbying for their students, Universities must give additional consideration to state school pupils without these advantages.
  • An appeals system that works – the government must ensure all schools and exams boards are equipped to swiftly process appeals so no young person misses out on their place at university, college, in an apprenticeship, or in work, because of a slow appeals system. Students who meet the conditions of an offer on appeal should be accepted to start this year.
  • Support for education professionals – All results being awarded in the same week will put huge pressure on stretched school and college leaders and teachers, who have worked tirelessly this year. The Government must set out the support which will be available to staff so they are equipped to advise and support pupils need urgent clarity on the support available to them throughout results week