Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended plans for teachers to grade GCSE and A-level pupils in England this summer as a “good compromise”.

It follows confirmation that schools rather than an algorithm will determine grades this summer. The PM said the process will be “fair” and “durable”, adding that he had confidence in the education secretary. But education select committee chairman Robert Halfon asked how ministers would prevent a “Wild West of grading”. With GCSEs and A-levels cancelled because of the pandemic, schools will determine grades using a combination of mock exams, coursework and essays, exam regulator Ofqual said on Thursday.

There will be optional assessments set by exam boards for all subjects, but they will not be taken in exam conditions nor decide final grades. Results will be published earlier in August to allow time to appeal. A-level results day will be 10 August, with GCSE results given out on 12 August. But concerns have been raised that the measures will result in grade inflation. On a visit to Accrington Academy in Lancashire earlier, Mr Johnson said exams would have continued normally in an “ideal world”.

“But I think this is as good a compromise as we can come to.

“I think it will be fair, I think it will be durable and it’s the right way forward.” Asked if he had confidence in Education Secretary Gavin Williamson amid speculation he will be moved out of the position in an upcoming reshuffle, Mr Johnson said: “Of course.” Last summer, thousands of A-level students had their results downgraded from school estimates by a controversial algorithm, before Ofqual announced a U-turn which allowed them to use teachers’ predictions instead. Mr Halfon said school-assessed grades were the “least worst option that the government has come up with” but it risked “baking a rock cake of grade inflation into the system”.

“So will (Gavin Williamson) confirm what is the government’s plan to ensure we will not have a wild west of grading, that these grades will be meaningful to employers so as not to damage children’s life chances and when?” Mr Williamson said grade inflation was an “important issue” but it was being addressed through internal and external checks, and exam boards would be able to “root out malpractice”. Addressing the Commons about the plans, he said: “Ultimately, this summer’s assessments will ensure fair routes to the next stages of education or the start of their career. That is our overall aim.”

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