HEREFORDSHIRE Council has slammed the Government for how A-level results have been worked out.

The Government has come under fire from various bodies, including students, colleges and teaching unions, for the algorithm used to calculate results for sixth form students unable to take exams due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes as pressure mounts on the Government over its handling of the exams system after thousands of pupils in England had their results downgraded.

Protesters gathered outside Downing Street on Friday chanting for Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to be sacked.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted that he has confidence in Mr Williamson and described the system as "robust".

But speaking about the situation, Councillor Felicity Norman, Herefordshire Council's cabinet member for children and families said the system was "deeply flawed".

"We want all children and young people in Herefordshire to have a great start in life and are proud of all the effort, dedication and work they, and their teachers, have put into their education," she said.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has placed huge challenges before them and the cancellation of examinations this year has caused extra anxiety at an already difficult time.

"Whilst many children will be content with the A-level grades they have received and are able to take the next step in their lives as they hoped, others are not so fortunate and it is clear that the system implemented by national government, and changed at short notice, is deeply flawed.

"Our children should not be treated unfairly because of this.

"We are especially concerned that the results appear to disproportionately favour students who studied at private schools, particularly in relation to the very top grades.

"The disproportionate impact of a deeply flawed algorithm on pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds is unacceptable. We support the calls for the Equalities Commission to undertake a review into the impact of the results on those from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

"We know some are finding it difficult to make sense of what has taken place. Your school or college is the first place to get advice and support and they may be dealing with a large number of queries, but we are sure they will offer advice within the national picture that is still evolving.

"We support all those who appeal against the grades they have been awarded. We call on national government to enable students to appeal directly if they so wish."

A senior government minister has defended this year's exam results and says the figures "look good" for the number of students able to go to university this year.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, speaking on the BBC's Breakfast programme, said that more pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds have been accepted to university than last year.

Asked if he would accept that poorer students have been hardest hit by the downgrading, Mr Shapps said: "No, I think again you should go on the evidence here – that's not been the upshot.

"I was having a look at the numbers and 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, on the basis of the exam results yesterday, 7.3% more are going to university, have been accepted for university, than just last year."

He added: "The figures show that both disadvantaged, and indeed the overall numbers of students who've got 9,000 more university places confirmed than last year, 179,000 18-year-olds accepted already for university, so the figures look good in terms of students being able to go to university this year."

BBC Breakfast host Charlie Stayt suggested to Mr Shapps that he was discounting statistics indicating that children from the most deprived areas have been hardest hit by results being downgraded.

Mr Shapps responded: "I don't (discount it), it's just that I'm reading an actual statistic – 7.3% more children from disadvantaged backgrounds, 18-year-olds, accepted to university this than last year, to which you're coming back and saying I don't agree with that, but you're not providing me any numbers.

"So yes, I do think that more students from disadvantaged backgrounds are going to university and overall, as I say, we've got more been accepted to university than previously as well.

"So look, those are the figures. If you've got up some other figures then tell me, but that's the numbers I've got in front of me."