Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has defended her comments that people will not ask today’s students about their A-levels in 10 years’ time.
Ms Keegan made the comments in an interview with Sky News on Thursday as thousands of pupils collected their results across the country.
Speaking to reporters later at the City of London Academy Islington, in north London, she rejected the suggestion that the comments were insensitive to students worried about their grades.
She insisted: “It is true, it is just real.
“It’s an important step to get to your next destination, but when you’re a couple of destinations further on there’ll be other things that they look at.”
The comments were criticised by shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson.
Speaking on a visit to MBS Sixth Form in Paddington, west London, Ms Phillipson said: “I think the comments from the Secretary of State are incredibly rude and dismissive.
“This is a nerve-racking day for young people who’ve worked incredibly hard.
“The last thing that they need is the Secretary of State offering comments like that, and it really does add insult to injury coming from a Government that completely failed to put in place the kind of support that our young people needed coming out of the pandemic after all of the disruption they’d experienced.”
Speaking to Sky News, Ms Keegan had said: “Somebody asked me, ‘What will people ask you in 10 years’ time?’
“They won’t ask you anything about your A-level grades in 10 years’ time. They will ask you about other things you have done since then, what you have done in the workplace, what you did at university.
“And then, after a period of time, they don’t even ask you what you did at university.
“It is really all about what you do and what you can demonstrate and the skills that you learn in the workplace.”
Elsewhere, her comments garnered support rather than criticism.
Former footballer Gary Neville told BBC Breakfast: “One thing that I do agree with Gillian (Keegan) on is that actually in 10 years’ time no employer is going to look at your GCSE results, your A-level results, they’re going to look at your experience that you’ve had in the workplace.”
Jeremy has made a career of being the exception not the rule but he does have a good point here: Results day is important, but not necessarily a deal-breaker.
Whatever results you got today, there are lots of options available to you 👇 🧵 https://t.co/Fkku7iNdhg
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) August 17, 2023
Neville helped found University Academy 92 which, according to its website, believes in delivering education that is “so much more than a qualification”.
He was among a slew of famous names expressing support for students who did not get the results they hoped for.
He said students should be graded purely on coursework, labelling exams “robotic and methodical and… out of date”.
He added: “I have a different belief around exams. I don’t believe you should work for 16 years at school and at college and then it all depends upon a two-hour assessment.
“I think it’s prehistoric. I honestly believe that it needs ripping up.
“I think what you should have is a career passport, a body of work, that you should be able to be proud of, that you should be able to refer to your employers and they should be able to look at.”
It’s not the end of the world if your A level results aren’t what you’d hoped for. I got a C and 2 Us and here I am today with my own brewery.
— Jeremy Clarkson (@JeremyClarkson) August 17, 2023
The Prime Minister also spoke in support of disappointed students.
Rishi Sunak retweeted former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, who continued his annual tradition of announcing that he got a C and two Us, adding that “it’s not the end of the world if your A-level results aren’t what you’d hoped for”.
The Prime Minister said: “Jeremy has made a career of being the exception not the rule but he does have a good point here – results day is important, but not necessarily a deal-breaker.”
He added there are “lots of options” available “whatever results” students receive, citing apprenticeship courses, higher technical qualifications (HTQs) and the possibility of finding a different university course through clearing.