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Labour said universities ‘now need clarity and support’ after the A-Levels U-turn. (PA)


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Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is lifting the cap on university places in a bid to help students who may have lost out on their first choice amid the A-Levels grading fiasco.

The Cabinet minister said higher education institutions “won’t be fined” for going above the number of places they can normally offer.

But university groups said they were still seeking “urgent clarification and advice” from the Government over a host of issues.

The move came after a major U-turn on the grading system used to determine this year’s A-Level and GCSE results after exams were cancelled because the coronavirus pandemic.

Students had been given their marks based on an algorithm which saw almost 40% of predicted grades in England downgraded, and led to some missing out on university offers.

But Ofqual announced on Monday afternoon it would allow teacher-assessed grades to be used instead of those moderated by the controversial system.

In a statement on Monday afternoon the exam regulator said “after reflection” it had decided the best way forward is “to award grades on the basis of what teachers submitted”.

And Mr Williamson said of universities: “They won’t be fined and we’re removing those caps on every single university in the United Kingdom, so that they have the ability to expand the number of places, welcoming more students into those universities, as many as possible.”

‘CHALLENGES’

But Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, which represents higher education institutions, said: “Today’s policy change will mean that more students will have the grades that match the offer of their first choice university. 

“This will cause challenges at this late stage in the admissions process – capacity, staffing, placements and facilities – particularly with the social distance measures in place.”

He added: “Universities will do everything they can to work through these issues in the days ahead. 

“The Government will need to step up and support universities through the challenges created by this late policy change. We are seeking urgent clarification and advice from Government on a number of crucial issues.

“Almost 70% of students are already placed with their first-choice institution, but those who are not should think carefully about their next steps, speak to their parents, guardians and teachers and get into contact with their preferred university to advise on their options.”

That view was echoed by Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green, who warned: “Students and universities now need clarity and support to ensure that the past week of Tory chaos doesn’t rob anyone of the opportunities they deserve.”

Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of school leaders’ union the NAHT, said the Government’s U-turn on results “may already be too late for some A-level students who have already missed out on their first choice of university and course”.

He added: “Every day of delay is going to have loaded more and more difficulty onto universities and their capacity to meet all of the demand for places that will now inevitably come their way.

“For them, the problem is far from over.”

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Tour de France: Tadej Pogacar poised to win after stunning time-trial ride

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Primoz Roglic was disconsolate after losing the yellow jersey on the penultimate stage

Tadej Pogacar is set to win the Tour de France ahead of strong favourite Primoz Roglic in one of the most dramatic turnarounds in the race’s history.

Pogacar, 21, will be confirmed as the youngest winner for 111 years at the end of Sunday’s largely processional stage to Paris.

The UAE-Team Emirates rider overhauled a 57-second deficit to Roglic, who was thought to be a far stronger rider on stage 20’s time trial to La Planche des Belles Filles.

It will be a first Grand Tour victory for Slovenian Pogacar, who took the yellow jersey from compatriot Roglic after he had held it for 13 days.

Pogacar is now 59 seconds ahead of Roglic at the end of a day of drama reminiscent of the 1989 Tour, when Greg LeMond unexpectedly overhauled Laurent Fignon in a final-day time trial to win by eight seconds.

Richie Porte of Trek-Segafredo will be on the podium in Paris for the first time, taking third, three minutes and 30 seconds down.

Pogacar won the stage, one minute 21 seconds ahead of Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma team-mate Tom Dumoulin. Porte climbed to third overall after finishing in third place on the stage.

Britain’s Adam Yates of Mitchelton-Scott will finish ninth in the general classification, 9mins 25secs behind the winner.

Primoz Roglic
Roglic looked unbeatable all race long

What happened to Roglic?

Roglic has looked imperious throughout the three-week race thanks to support from his powerful team, featuring some of the sport’s best riders, including Dumoulin, Wout van Aert and Sepp Kuss.

The 36km stage from Lure to La Planche des Belles Filles was a challenging course that finished, unusually for time trial, with a category 1 climb. Roglic, 30, was considered a far better time triallist than Pogacar, and began the stage strongly.

But Roglic hit trouble at the changeover from super-fast specialist time-trial bikes to a more conventional road machine before the climb, struggling to clip into his pedals, wobbling when being pushed away and never seeming to find his typical rhythm.

Roglic, who claimed his first Grand Tour victory at last year’s Vuelta a Espana, looked desperate as he crossed the line, his helmet pushed upwards and slightly lop-sided, knowing already he had lost the race.

Desperation turned to confusion and dejection as he sat on the ground in his full yellow skinsuit, trying to comprehend how he had committed one of modern cycling’s biggest chokes.

And as Pogacar sat down for his post-race TV interview, Roglic interrupted it to embrace his countryman.

“I just didn’t push enough,” said Roglic. “It was like that. I was more and more without the power I needed but I gave it all until the end.

“We’ll see what happens next. I can be happy with the racing we showed here so let’s take positive things out of it.”

Tadej Pogacar
Pogacar won three stages on this year’s race

From a distant second, Pogacar takes it all

Roglic had been favourite to win the 107th edition of cycling’s greatest race, alongside defending champion Egan Bernal of Ineos Grenadiers.

However, Bernal abandoned the race before stage 17 following a disastrous climb up the Grand Colombier on stage 15, where he cracked and lost more than seven minutes to Roglic.

It was one of the biggest downturns in form for a defending champion in recent history, and put an end to Ineos’ record of winning every Tour since 2015, four of which were as Team Sky.

Ineos looked set to have something to celebrate as they tried to seal the polka dot King of the Mountains jersey through their second protected rider Richard Carapaz.

But despite 2019 Giro d’Italia winner Carapaz’s attempts to deliberately ride a slow first section before blasting up the mountain, Pogacar’s epic performance eclipsed him and he took the jersey.

It is the second of three jerseys Pogacar will claim at this year’s race – he will also pick up the young riders’ white jersey.

In total Pogacar picks up prize money of 500,000 euros (£458,270) for the yellow jersey, 25,000 euros (£22,900) for the King of the Mountains award, and a further 20,000 euros (£18,300) for being the best placed young rider.

“I’m really proud of the team,” Pogacar said. “They did such a big effort. We were dreaming of the yellow jersey from the start. Amazing.

“It was not just me today, we needed the whole team for the recon. I knew every corner and knew exactly where to accelerate. Congrats to all my team.

“I didn’t hear anything on the radio in the final five kilometres because the fans were too loud so I just went full gas.

“My dream was just to be on the Tour de France and now I’ve won it. It’s unbelievable.”

grand_tour_heroes

Laurent Fignon
Similar scenes: Fignon, like Roglic, is inconsolable on the line after losing the Tour in Paris in 1989

General classification after stage 20

1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) 84hrs 26mins 33secs

2. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Jumbo-Visma) +59secs

3. Richie Porte (Aus/Trek-Segafredo) +3mins 30secs

4. Mikel Landa (Spa/Bahrain McLaren) +5mins 58secs

5. Enric Mas (Spa/Movistar) +6mins 07secs

6. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col/Astana) +6mins 47secs

7. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Jumbo-Visma) +7mins 48secs

8. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Pro Cycling) +8mins 02secs

9. Adam Yates (GB/Mitchelton-Scott) +9mins 25secs

10. Damiano Caruso (Ita/Bahrain McLaren) +14mins 03secs

Stage 20 result

1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) 55mins 55secs

2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Jumbo-Visma) +1min 21secs

3. Richie Porte (Aus/Trek-Segafredo) Same time

4. Wout van Aert (Bel/Jumbo Visma) +1min 31secs

5. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Jumbo-Visma) +1min 56secs

6. Remi Cavagna (Fra/Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +1min 59secs

7. Damiano Caruso (Ita/Bahrain McLaren) +2mins 29secs

8. David de la Cruz (Spa/UAE Team Emirates) +2mins 40secs

9. Enric Mas (Spa/Movistar) +2mins 45secs

10. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Pro Cycling) +2mins 54secs

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Navalny says he can walk and recognize people as he eyes “clear road” to recovery from poisoning

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Navalny posted a picture of himself walking down a staircase on Saturday, writing that he is regaining his physical and mental capacity.

“Quite recently, I did not recognize people and did not understand how to talk,” Navalny wrote. “Every morning the doctor came to me and said: Alexey, I brought a board, let’s figure out which word we can write on it. This drove me to despair because although I understood in general what the doctor wanted, I did not understand where to get the words from.

“Now I’m a guy whose legs are shaking when he walks up the stairs, but this guy thinks: ‘Oh, this is a staircase! People get up on these. Perhaps we should look for an elevator.’ And before, I would have just stood there and stared at it blankly,” the post added.

In the post, Navalny thanked the doctors of the Charité Hospital in Berlin, where he is undergoing treatment. The German government has said the Kremlin critic was poisoned with a chemical agent from the Novichok group, a conclusion supported by two other labs in France and Sweden.

Earlier this week, his team issued a statement saying that German specialists found traces of the nerve agent on a water bottle taken from Navalny’s hotel room in Tomsk, Russia.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Friday questioned the water bottle as evidence and added that poisoning is one version of what happened to Navalny but it has not been confirmed as traces of poison were not found in Navalny’s blood by Russian labs.

Mary Ilyushina reported from Moscow, Rob Picheta wrote in London.

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State Dept. provides House Dems docs previously given to Ron Johnson’s Biden probe

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Democrats have described Johnson’s probe as a politically motivated smear campaign against President Donald Trump’s challenger that has already been discredited and tainted by Russian propaganda. The intelligence community has identified a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian lawmaker, Andriy Derkach, as an agent of a Russian disinformation campaign intended to denigrate Biden.

“This ‘investigation’ is obviously designed to boost the president’s campaign and tear down his opponent, while our own intelligence community warns it is likely to amplify Russian disinformation,” Engel said in a statement. “We’re going to make sure the American people see the whole picture, not just cherrypicked information aimed at breathing new life into debunked conspiracy theories.”

Democrats have raised concerns that material gathered by Derkach, who met in December with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, has been laundered into Johnson’s material. Johnson has strenuously denied the allegations, but Democrats sought the documents he obtained from the State Department to understand the direction his probe is taking. POLITICO first reported that Derkach mailed information about the Bidens to Johnson, but Johnson’s office has denied receiving anything from Derkach.

Derkach has pushed many of the same claims against Biden that Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is pursuing. Johnson’s probe centers on allegations that a Democratic public-affairs firm sought to leverage Hunter Biden’s position on the board of Burisma in order to influence the Obama-era State Department.

Johnson has also alleged that Hunter Biden’s role was itself a conflict of interest because his father, who at the time was the vice president, was spearheading U.S. policy toward Ukraine.

Johnson has drawn condemnation in recent weeks for characterizing his probe as potentially fatal to Biden’s presidential candidacy, a political calculation that Democrats said removed any doubt about the goal of his investigation.

Some Republicans have expressed discomfort with Johnson’s probe, too. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) last week described it as a “political exercise” and said he opposed Johnson’s efforts to subpoena additional witnesses as part of the investigation. POLITICO reported earlier this year that Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), then-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned Johnson that his probe could aid Russia’s election-meddling efforts.

“It is not the legitimate role of government, for Congress or for taxpayer expense, to be used in an effort to damage political opponents,” Romney said this week, referencing Johnson’s earlier comments that called into question the Wisconsin Republicans’ assertions that the investigation has nothing to do with the upcoming election.

Engel has accused the State Department of racing to aid Johnson’s effort despite stonewalling House Democrats in numerous other investigations, including its impeachment inquiry in 2019. He cited a recent internal directive, revealed last month by POLITICO, that urged state Department offices to provide key documents to Johnson by the end of September.

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