Gove blocks inquiry into GCSE ‘fiasco’

Michael Gove has again refused to intervene in the "regrettable situation" over GCSE exam grades, which was labelled a "fiasco" by frustrated MPs today.

The education secretary told the Commons' education committee he was not prepared to tread on regulator Ofqual's toes over English GCSE grades, after Welsh education secretary Leighton Andrews chose to order a change in grade boundaries.

The WJEC exam board is regrading its papers set by Welsh pupils but not doing so for English ones, after Ofqual said it did not see a need for the change. That has left many complaining the situation has descended into a farce.

When Andrews' firm decision was praised by one MP, Gove replied: "Being decisive is one thing, being right is another."

He later added: "You use the phrase car crash, I prefer to say we always knew there would be problems."

MPs on the committee called for an independent inquiry, but Gove refused to grant one.

"There are inevitable difficulties that arise in the complex way in which exams are graded," he said, before repeating his argument that it is not for a minister to interfere in the decisions of an independent regulator.

Gove appeared to open the door to a large number of appeals from individuals and schools who feel they have suffered adversely as a result of the controversy, however.

He said he had a "sense of regret and sympathy" for the students who have suffered.

"Ofqual have made it clear if individual heads in individual schools have evidence to suggest that injustices have done, Ofqual will of course look at the evidence… [but] there's no evidence so far for them to revisit their decisions," Gove said.

"I want fairness, but I wouldn't want to generate false hope."

WJEC said it was asked to adjust its GCSE English exam awards downwards "to ensure comparable outcomes" – and that the decision was now being judged inconsistently by regulators.

"As an urgent next step, we have asked the regulators to explore the possibility of agreeing a common view so that we can act to remove the uncertainty for schools and colleges in England and Wales, and ensure a coherent and rational way forward for all our candidates," it said in a statement.

As many as 143 schools could find themselves judged to be failing as a result of poor results in English GCSEs, a union has warned. That could see them forced into becoming academies – a key goal of Gove's.