Metro front page 17 August 2020

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“Pupil power” is the headline on the front of Metro, with images of students demonstrating outside the Department for Education in Westminster on Sunday dominating the page. Hundreds of students took to the streets protesting against the government’s mishandling of exam results, with many demanding Education Secretary Gavin Williamson stands down. As they gathered in Westminster, they called on Boris Johnson to “come out of hiding”, the paper adds, and take personal responsibility for the “chaos”.

The Guardian front page 17 August 2020

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The increasing pressure being placed upon the prime minister to get a grip of exam results also leads the front page of The Guardian. Labour and Conservative politicians have united in their criticism of the “botched” handling of the A-level results in England, the paper reports. Oxford University has said it is unable to offer further places to state school applications who have been affected by the grading fiasco “as we are constrained by government student number controls”, a spokesperson has said.

The Daily Telegraph front page 17 August 2020

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Student protests also feature prominently on the front page of The Daily Telegraph, with a protester carrying a sign reading, “our gov’t failed us”. Meanwhile, Mr Williamson and exams regulator Ofqual are divided over exam grades, the paper reports. Board members at Ofqual want to ditch their own algorithm, the paper adds, after sources allegedly said that some members believe the system has led to a “haemorrhaging” of public trust in qualifications. Mr Williamson has repeatedly defended the algorithm as the fairest way to award student grades after exams were cancelled.

The Daily Mail front page 16 August 2020

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“Will GCSE results be delayed?” is the question posed on the front page of the Daily Mail. The PM is facing pressure from within his own party to delay Thursday’s results by two weeks so grades can be revised following the A-level “fiasco”. There are fears millions of pupils could see their grades drop because of the contentious algorithm used to determine A-level students’ grades. Lord Baker, who introduced the GCSE system, said of the government: “If you are in a hole, stop digging.”

The Times front page 17 August 2020

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Conservative MPs have warned Mr Johnson that they will go on the warpath unless he tackles the “unfairness” of the English A-level grading system, The Times says. A growing number of Tory MPs have complained to their whips about the “Kafkaesque” computer algorithm used to determine results, the paper adds, with several calling on the government to base results on pupils’ predicted grades. The paper quotes former Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, who said: “This is something that cuts through to everyone.”

The i paper front page 17 August 2020

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The government’s “chaotic” A-level exam grading has sparked legal action, the i newspaper reports, as regulator Ofqual could face a judicial review over the “fiasco”. Students’ legal challenge has been backed by Labour’s Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, who called on the government to “admit they got it wrong”. Meanwhile, education unions have condemned the “political Punch and Judy” show.

Financial Times front page 17 August 2020

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Meanwhile, the government is considering offering bailout loans to debt-laden companies owned by private equity groups, the Financial Times reports. The move is an attempt to rescue a swathe of the British High Street, which has seen the loss of hundreds of jobs because of the impact of lockdown restrictions caused by the pandemic. Citing four people involved in the process, the paper says the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department wants to help private equity-backed groups that employ large numbers of people, such as Pizza Express, Prezzo and Merlin, the owner of Legoland. Under European Union rules, however, companies whose losses exceed 50% of their share capital are ineligible for government support.

The Daily Mirror front page 17 August 2020

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Elsewhere, the Daily Mirror leads with the sad news that search and rescue teams looking for lost brothers Muhammad and Ali Shabbir have found two bodies. The teenagers, 18 and 16 respectively, got into difficulty in the water during a visit to Lytham St Annes, Lancashire.

The Daily Express front page 17 August 2020

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The Daily Express leads with an article relaying fears from senior Brexiteers that a deal with the EU could allegedly leave the UK tied to Brussels.

The Daily Star front page 17 August 2020

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And the Daily Star says that Britain is due to be hit by 55mph tropical storm Kyle this week, bringing an end to the heatwave the country has been experiencing and potentially sparking an early Autumn.

The Daily Telegraph reports that board members of the exams regulator Ofqual want to ditch their algorithm for awarding A-level and GCSE grades – and allow pupils to be awarded their predicted results.

The paper says it has been told by sources that splits emerged in Ofqual’s board at the weekend – with some members warning the row had led to a haemorrhaging of public trust in qualifications.

The sources say that publishing GCSE grades using the algorithm would be “suicide”. But Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has defended the methodology and said there will be “no U-turn”.

“Another kick in the teeth for pupils,” is the Daily Mirror’s take on the decision to press ahead with publishing GCSE results as planned this week.

The paper’s editorial supports predicted grades being used – pointing out that teachers know far more about individual children than a “criticised, controversial, condemned computer model”.

But, in the Daily Express, Leo McKinstry says there is a need for “rigour” rather than “indulgence” when awarding marks – adding that grade inflation might give the “illusion of progress” but it “debases the integrity of exams”.

The Times and The Guardian highlight the growing pressure Prime Minister Boris Johnson is coming under from his own backbenchers to deal with the fall-out over exam results.

The MP for Poole, Sir Robert Syms, has told The Times “there is real risk of Tory MPs going on the warpath” – adding that “people voted for Boris Johnson to run the country, not an algorithm”.

The Guardian reports that Conservative MPs are already getting “large numbers of representations from frustrated constituents” – with more expected “to flood in” after the GCSE grades are released.

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Protesters outside the Department for Education in London on Sunday

“£50 airport test could be a game-changer” is the headline in the Daily Mail, as it reports on calls from the travel industry to shorten the quarantine period.

Under a method that is already reportedly in use in Iceland, travellers pre-book a swab test on arrival and then take a second examination five days later.

If both tests are negative, a traveller is freed from needing to self-isolate. Advocates of the change say it would open up international travel and boost confidence among holidaymakers.

The Financial Times reports that the government is “seeking ways” to offer loans to companies such as Pizza Express and Prezzo that are owned by private equity groups.

Ministers hope the cash would rescue a “swath of the British high street”. But any such plans could fall foul of European Union laws.

The FT points out that firms backed by private equity usually carry high levels of debt to reduce their tax bill – which results in statutory losses even when they are making cash. EU rules say companies whose losses exceed 50% of their share capital are ineligible for government support.

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“Cut the mustard” is The Sun’s headline as it says that dozens of British favourites including sausage rolls and mustard will be banned from daytime TV adverts as part No 10’s planned anti-obesity drive.

According to new research, the products will not be seen on screens before 21:00 because of their salt content.

The paper adds that “posh snacks” such as quiche, hummus and potato salad “will also suffer” the same fate.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health has said the measures are “proportionate” and will help tackle obesity “as quickly as possible”.

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