It is claimed one school saw A*s jump from 33% to 90% in 2021, when teacher-assessed grades were awarded.
A report from the Sunday Times found one school saw its proportion of A*s at A-level jump from 33% to 90% in 2021, when teacher-assessed grades were awarded following the cancellation of full public exams.
The minister said: “Every allegation is investigated by the exam boards and all the records [of teacher assessment] have been kept… so if there are any new allegations they will investigate them as well.
“They also reassured me that actually when you look at whether it’s independent schools or academies, the children who were expected to get high grades, A-grades, actually achieved those.”
He said every headteacher had to sign “really stringent” declarations that they had followed grading arrangements properly.
Mr Zahawi added that grade inflation is “why I want to go back to exams”, and while there “is no perfect system” the “best system” is exams.
He said advance information on topics covered in the 2022 exams released by Ofqual on Monday, and the grading arrangements for this year – with pupils marked between 2021 and 2019 levels – will help mitigate the impact of Covid on pupils’ results.
Asked why private schools have charitable status, Mr Zahawi said he wants to see fee-paying schools do “much more to open up to children from disadvantaged backgrounds”.
He suggested private schools could help run multi-academy trusts.
“It’s also important that they play their part… can we get our independent schools to join us on what the evidence suggests is the best way forward, which is a family of schools that are well-managed, tightly managed, really well-supported in a multi-academy trust that’s high-performing – we know the evidence suggests that delivers the best outcome for every child.”
Mr Zahawi also said he will ask the Treasury for more money if pupils do not appear to have caught up on lost learning by the end of the Parliament, and added that he is writing to parents to urge they and their children take up tutoring.
He urged a viewer who said their GCSE-age child had received no catch-up tutoring under the Government’s flagship scheme to “get in contact with your school”.
He added: “Every school has the opportunity to take up the tutoring programme… the first term of this year we have done as many tutoring hours as the whole of last year.”
He said reports by the Times Educational Supplement that the programme is only meeting 8% of its target “only looked at one” of the three pillars of the tutoring programme, with school-led tutoring “the most successful”.
Asked why Sir Kevan Collins, the former Government catch-up tsar, called the programme “feeble”, Mr Zahawi said: “My very strong view is you invest and then you evidence what you do – we’re making a £5 billion investment in recovery.
“Now what I did is I looked at the evidence. I went to the Chancellor, I said I need £800 million for recovery for the 16 to 19-year-olds, he gave me that, and then I wanted more money for secondary and primary for disadvantaged children.
“And then making sure I monitor, have we caught up? If we haven’t, I’ll go back to the Treasury and ask for more money because what I want to do by the end of this Parliament is make sure every child has had the opportunity to recover.”
He told presenter Kay Burley that an education White Paper will be published “next month” and it will be tied in with the children’s social care review and Send (special educational needs and disability) review, saying “we can knit the three together”.
A spokesperson for the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, a group of leading UK private schools, said: “Examination malpractice is taken extremely seriously by schools and can lead to substantial penalties for those involved.
“The accusation that independent schools and their teachers set out to take advantage of the pandemic by ‘gaming’ A-level and GCSE grades in order to take advantage of a unique system designed to respond to the unique challenges in schools across the country, and the world, is unprecedented.”
They added that in both 2020 and 2021, when a form of teacher-assessed grades were awarded, Ofqual had endeavoured to “provide effective oversight”, “although it was apparent that their regulation would always be much more challenging than the familiar and well-rehearsed system of standardised examinations”.
The spokesperson continued: “The process was implemented no less robustly and with no less rigour in independent schools than in any other school.
“For now, rather than taking away from the achievements of young people and their teachers who, like everyone else, faced up to the challenges and pressures of the pandemic under ever-changing conditions, let us focus on the way ahead and ensuring the system is robust and fair for all.”