Ofqual chief Sally Collier quits after exam-grading debacle

Regulator says outgoing boss believes next stage of awarding process will be “better overseen by new leadership”
Sally Collier, Parliament TV

By Jim Dunton

25 Aug 2020

The head of exams regulator Ofqual has stepped down from her role following this month’s chaos over the grading of A-Levels, GCSEs and other qualifications for which students could not sit exams because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson last week pointedly refused to voice support for Sally Collier, who was chief regulator and chief executive of the non-ministerial government department.

In a statement, the Ofqual board said it was appointing Collier’s predecessor, Dame Glenys Stacey, to assume a temporary leadership role as acting chief regulator until December. Stacey served as chief regulator between 2011 and 2016.

The board said: “The chief regulator, Sally Collier, has decided that the next stage of the awarding process would be better overseen by new leadership. 

“The Ofqual board supports Sally in this decision, and thanks her for her leadership and service over the past four years, which has included overseeing the successful introduction of an entirely new set of GCSEs and A-Levels, and a new grading system.”

Ofqual said Stacey will be supported by a new committee of the Ofqual board that would include one or more of the current Ofsted Board members. The committee will be chaired by HM chief inspector of education, children's services and skills Amanda Spielman.

“If required, Ofsted will also provide additional staff to support Ofqual during the autumn, as they have been supporting other government departments through the summer,” the board added.

Williamson thanked Collier “for the commitment she has shown to the role over the last four years” and said he wished her well for the future.

“I welcome Ofqual’s announcement that Dame Glenys Stacey is to assume a temporary leadership role as acting chief regulator and also the new internal governance arrangements put in place with Ofsted support,” he said.  

“This will make sure Ofqual can fully focus on the important functions it must deliver as the independent regulator for qualifications, examinations and assessments in England.

“Moving forward, my department will continue to work closely with Ofqual’s leadership to deliver fair results and exams for young people.”

This summer’s exam-grading debacle has seen U-turns over algorithm-derived A-Level and GCSE grades. In the case of the former, the option for students to choose the most favourable results from their algorithm-generated results or their teacher-predicted grades has presented universities with a new crisis as they face unexpectedly high numbers of students entitled to places.

Last week the head of HM Courts and Tribunals Service was 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 last Friday.

DfE said in a statement that the move was intended “to ensure that the government is able to respond fully to exam results, whilst also ensuring the return of schools in September”.

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