Calls for Gavin Williamson to resign as exam U-turn branded 'utter shambles'

The education secretary is facing calls to resign from his own party following his chaotic exams U-turn, as he is branded ‘wholly unsuitable’ for the job.

Gavin Williamson was forced to apologise and promise A-level and GCSE students that their grades could be based on teachers’ predictions, unless the grades produced by a controversial algorithm are higher.

The country-wide fury over his handling of the exam results has plunged his role into jeopardy, with MPs believing the prime minister will axe him when he reshuffles his Cabinet this autumn.

But there are already murmurings that he should be ousted much sooner over Monday’s fiasco. MailOnline reported that one former minister said: ‘He can’t hang around until autumn. He is a lame duck now.’

Meanwhile, former Tory minister Nicholas Soames launched a Twitter tirade against the PM and the education secretary, using the hashtag: ‘A catastrophic misjudgement Williamson must go’.

He tweeted last night: ‘What could have been in the Prime Minister’s mind that led him to appoint so mere, so unreliable, so wholly unsuitable a man to one of the most important jobs in Government’.

Former Conservative minister George Freeman also described the government’s handling of grades as a ‘total shambles’ that has ‘been so obviously coming for months’.

He told Times Radio: ‘Ultimately, the Prime Minister is in charge. And I think he will want to take firm control of this and get a grip and show his Government is taking the life chances of a generation of children seriously.

‘I’m told the Prime Minister’s planning to reshuffle in the autumn, and I dare say he wants to take everything into account.’

Labour shadow minister Louise Haigh said Mr Williamson ‘must resign’, while the Liberal Democrats’ education spokeswoman Layla Moran was equally blunt in her assessment.

She told BBC News: ‘The point is this Government is utterly incompetent. Gavin Williamson must go.’

Bookmakers put Mr Williamson 2-1 favourite as the next departure from the Cabinet, while a YouGov poll before the grades announcement suggested 75% of Britons thought the Government had handled the situation badly and 40% said he should resign.

But earlier on Monday, Downing Street insisted Mr Williamson retains the confidence of the Prime Minister.

The prime minister revived Williamson’s position as a top minister last year after Theresa May dismissed him as defence secretary for allegedly leaking security discussions.

Johnson appointed Williamson, a key figure in the Prime Minister’s 2019 Tory leadership campaign, to oversee England’s education system swiftly after entering Downing Street in July last year.

On Monday, Williamson was forced to apologise and alter the exams system he had previously defended as ‘robust’, after almost 40% of grades in England were downgraded from teachers’ predictions.

The decision led to student protests, and criticism from teachers and ministers, after thousands received grades much lower than expected causing some to miss out on university places.

He said last night: ‘I am sorry for the distress this has caused young people and their parents but hope this announcement will now provide the certainty and reassurance they deserve.’

But students, while bittersweetly welcoming the upgrading of tens of thousands of grades, did not appear placated by the apology and some demanded his resignation.

Stanley Lewis, 18, of north London, who has had doubt cast on his desire to study at Cambridge University, said: ‘This has been handled terribly and with poor preparation. It is clear that Gavin Williamson should resign.’

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