DfE drafts in second perm sec to support response to A-Level grade row

HMCTS chief brought in “to ensure that the government is able to respond fully to exam results, whilst also ensuring the return of schools in September”
People at a Whitehall protest over A-Level results earlier this month. Photo: Matt Crossick/Empics Read less

The head of HM Courts and Tribunals Service has been drafted in to head up the Department for Education’s handling of the exam grades fiasco.

Susan Acland-Hood, who has been HMCTS chief executive since 2016, took up her post as DfE’s temporary second permanent secretary at the end of last week “to ensure that the government is able to respond fully to exam results, whilst also ensuring the return of schools in September”, DfE said in a statement.

The department announced a major U-turn last week after a huge outcry over Ofqual and other exam regulators' use of a controversial algorithm to calculate GCSE, A-Level and other qualification grades. After initially saying students must accept their results – many of which were lower than predicted, leading to lost university and job offers – the government later said they could use either the algorithm-awarded results or teachers’ predicted grades, whichever was higher.

Acland-Hood, a former DfE director and senior advisor on education policy in No.10, will stay at the department for six weeks.

HMCTS deputy chief exec Kevin Sadler will fill in for her as interim chief exec during that time.

A DfE spokesperson said Acland-Hood would work closely with the department’s perm sec, Jonathan Slater, “to ensure the best possible outcomes for young people up and down the country”.

“Our focus now is on making sure every young person returns to the classroom full-time in September,” they added.

The announcement comes after rumours last week that Slater could face the sack over his department’s handling of A-Level and GCSE grades, amid claims that education secretary Gavin Williamson was “scapegoating” officials over the row.

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