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Gavin Williamson said he wanted to ensure the system was “as fair as possible for every single child” (BBC)


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Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has apologised to children “for the disruption that they’ve had to suffer” due to cancelled exams.

And he has insisted that the new “triple lock” grading system announced on Tuesday—which guarantees students either their calculated grade, an appeal, or a chance to sit the exam in the autumn— will deliver “credible, strong results”.

It comes as education unions accused the Government of a “panicked and chaotic” last-minute change to the grading system ahead of students receiving their A-Level results on Thursday.

Mr Williamson told the BBC: “I apologise to every single child right across the country for the disruption that they’ve had to suffer.”

He also defended the introduction of the triple lock system, saying ensuring children had an opportunity to take their exams later in the year was “the right thing to do”.

“The system, for the overwhelming majority of young people, is going to deliver, you know, credible, strong results for every single one of them,” he said. 

“It’s a robust system, it’s a fair system, it’s making sure that young people get the grades that they’ve worked so hard towards.”

And he added that the ability for pupils to appeal their grades would ensure young people were “able to have their concerns properly addressed”.

“What is key is giving young people the opportunity to move on to the next stage of their lives, making sure that they have the opportunity to go on to college, go to university, take an apprenticeship, go into the world of work.”

He continued: “I want to give people as much reassurance that the appeals process, the ability to have the opportunity to take the exams again, if that’s the route that they want to do, is open to all. And that’s what we’re doing. 

“And I’m not going to hesitate in terms of actually making changes if I can get to a system that’s as fair as possible for every single child.”

It comes after exam regulation Ofqual said it was “working urgently” to set out how to appeal A-Level results following the Government’s last-minute introduction of the triple lock on Tuesday. 

Schools minister Nick Gibb said on Wednesday morning details of the appeals process would be published “later”.

But the regulator says pupils who get their results on Thursday will have to wait several days before they find out how the system will work. 

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A Tory MP Has Branded His Government’s Decision On Trans Rights A “Crushing Disappointment”

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Trade Secretary and Women and Equalities minister Liz Truss (Credit: PA)


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A Tory MP has branded the government’s decision to row back on plans to reform transgender rights “a crushing disappointment”.

Crispin Blunt tabled an urgent question in the Commons on Thursday after ministers dropped plans to allow trans people to self-identify under reforms to the Gender Recognition Act,.

He said women and equalities minister Liz Truss, who is also the trade secretary, had presented MPs with “an inherently unstable settlement that will have to be addressed hopefully sooner rather than later” and that delays in its release had contributed to upset in the trans community.

“Does she appreciate that trans people cannot discern any strong or coherent reason for this screeching change of direction?” he added.

“Does she understand the anger at the prospect of them receiving their fundamental rights being snatched away?

“The longer this uncertainty has been allowed to continue, the worse the fear and anger have become.”

The Conservative backbencher said the contrast in both Ms Truss’s reputation across her twin briefs and her work on equalities compared to that of her predecessor Penny Mordaunt was “horribly stark”. 

“I welcome and enjoy the dynamism of my right honourable friend, that she brings to her unprecedented historic responsibilities in retaking control of British trade policy after nearly half a century,” he said.

“The command of technical, economic and legal detail required is at once intimidating and inspiring. As a great trading nation, it commands all her attention and she has risen to the trade challenge.

“The prime minister has done her, and the nation, no favours by continuing to overburden her after the election at such an extraordinary time for trade.”

He added: “Does she see that the underlying trend of the majority of people in this country is following the path set by a change of attitude in society a generation earlier towards those with different sexualities?

“And the vast majority, the vast, vast majority of LGBT people will stand in solidarity with trans people. Does she appreciate that this statement does not command a majority in this House?”

But fellow Tory MP Ben Bradley defended Ms Truss, accusing Mr Blunt of being “way out on a limb”.

He wrote on Twitter: [In my opinion], most colleagues welcome the compromise where can make things administratively easier for trans people, whilst still taking a good look at the implications of education, healthcare and treatments.”

He added that Ms Truss had found a “fair balance” in her response, and that any issues with the approach stems from the “previous administration massively overpromising” on potential changes to the process.

Under the government’s plans, the need for a Gender Recognition Certificate for a person to legally change sex will remain the same, but the process will be “modernised” and the cost reduced.

Ms Truss said the government is “also taking action to ensure transgender people can access the appropriate healthcare they need”.

Labour’s shadow minister for women and equalities, Marsha de Cordova, said minsters had “let trans people down…after three years of toxic debate”.

Ms Truss said she believed the “right conclusion” had been reached to ensure “proper checks and balances” in the system and that the government’s proposals were “in line with other major nations”.

“We believe in individual liberty and in the humanity and dignity of every person,” she added.

“It is my view that the balance struck in the existing legislation is correct.”

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Dreamworld accident: Australian theme park fined over four deaths

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image copyrightAlamy

image caption(L-R) Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozbeh Araghi and Cindy Low died in 2016

The operator of Australia’s Dreamworld theme park has been fined A$3.6m (£2m; $2.5m) over the deaths of four people on a malfunctioning water ride.

Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozbeh Araghi and Cindy Low died in October 2016 when their raft crashed into another and overturned, crushing them.

Park operator Ardent Leisure admitted in July to breaching safety laws.

The company said it accepted responsibility and had worked to improve safety standards.

The four victims – all adults – died almost instantly after the Thunder River Rapids Ride rafts collided, an inquiry heard in 2018. Two children were also on board but survived.

The accident at Australia’s biggest theme park was caused by a pump that malfunctioned near the end of the ride.

On Monday, a court said the company had failed in its duty of care and should have taken steps to make the ride safer.

“Steps were not that complex or burdensome and only mildly inconvenient and really were inexpensive,” Magistrate Pamela Dowse said.

“They operated the most iconic amusement park in the country, which targeted and attracted families.

“There was complete and blind trust placed in the defendant by every guest who rode the Thunder River Rapids Ride.”

image copyrightCORONERS COURT OF QUEENSLAND
image captionThe raft carrying passengers flipped in the collision

The size of the fine reflected the severity of the company’s failure, she added. Ardent had been facing a maximum A$4.5m fine.

Chief executive John Osborne said: “Ardent accepts responsibility for this tragedy, and we fully accept the consequences.”

Families of the victims also delivered statements to the sentencing court on Monday, expressing grief and anger over their loss.

  • Australia theme park admits guilt over ride deaths

“That Cindy died violently is unacceptable to us,” said Helen Cook, aunt to Ms Low. “Knowing her death could have been avoided is unacceptable and infuriating.”

In February, a coroner found the accident had been “only a matter of time” as the theme park had not properly assessed the ride’s safety risk in over 30 years.

Dreamworld briefly shut down for six weeks after the accident in 2016, during which it demolished the ride.

The company has reported operating losses every year since the accident, including more than A$260m in losses in its theme park division.

It is also fighting a class action from shareholders who claim the company misled them on the park’s safety measures.

Related Topics

  • Theme parks

  • Queensland
  • Australia

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Swiss voters clearly reject curbs on EU immigration

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The Swiss People’s Party (SVP) had forced a binding referendum on the EU agreement in a bid to curb immigration to the country where foreigners make up a quarter of the population.

The measure lost by 62%-38% margin.

The SVP – the biggest party in parliament – has long pushed to take back control of immigration, echoing some arguments pro-Brexit politicians used in the run-up to Britain’s exit from the EU. It won a referendum on the issue in 2014, only to see parliament water down its implementation.

Opponents said the plan would have robbed business of skilled workers and torpedoed accords that enhance non-EU member Switzerland’s access to the crucial EU single market.

Under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, the referendum could have forced the government to annul the EU agreement if negotiations did not produce a deal on ending the pact voluntarily, something Brussels has ruled out.

A “guillotine clause” meant that ending free movement would have toppled other bilateral pacts on land and air transport, procurement, technical barriers to trade, and research.

Around two-thirds of the 2.1 million foreigners living in Switzerland in 2019 were citizens of the EU, as well as Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, which with Switzerland are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

More than 450,000 Swiss live in the EU.

The domestic political battle immediately turned to Switzerland’s biggest foreign policy headache: a stalled treaty meant to cement ties with the EU but which critics say infringes too much on Swiss sovereignty and would never win a referendum.

The treaty would have Bern routinely adopt single market rules and create a new platform to resolve disputes.

With questions open over state aid, rules to protect high Swiss wages, and access to welfare benefits, the Swiss have dragged their feet while trying to forge a domestic consensus, triggering a row over cross-border stock trading.

Amid relatively high turnout, voters narrowly blocked an attempt to make it easier to shoot wolves deemed a threat to livestock.

In an unexpectedly close vote, they approved the government’s plans to buy new fighter jets for up to 6 billion Swiss francs ($6.46 billion).

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