Steve August 19, 2020

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The Daily Telegraph’s front page is dominated by a picture of the Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi, who it reports “will escape a whole-life sentence” because of his age at the time of the attack. The paper’s lead story, however, is the news that exam board Pearson has pulled its BTec results on the eve of releasing them. “Close to half a million pupils face fresh exam turmoil today after an eleventh-hour decision,” the paper says.

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The Guardian reports that exams regulator Ofqual was warned “at least a month ago” of “flaws” in the algorithm initially used to decide pupils’ A-Level results. “The regulator pressed ahead amid longstanding ministerial pressure to prevent grade inflation,” the paper says.

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And The Times reports that the education secretary was warned directly that students could be given the wrong results. Citing a senior source from the Department for Education, the paper says that Sir John Coles, a former director-general there, wrote to Gavin Williamson last month expressing concerns.

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The Daily Mirror also focuses on the Manchester Arena bombing, reporting that Mr Abedi’s brother refused to leave his cell as a court heard emotional testimony from bereaved relatives ahead of his sentencing. The paper features a picture of Hashem Abedi next to the words “the coward & the brave”.

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The Metro says a 16-year-old from Sudan who was found dead on a French beach “didn’t stand a chance”. The paper reports that he “tried to cross the Channel… in a tiny dinghy using a shovel as an oar”.

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The Daily Mail says his death highlights the “human cost of the crisis” and has “sparked a major row” over the government’s handling of it. “Now will we wake up to this tragedy?” it asks readers.

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The Daily Express reports that EU negotiators “have threatened to curb British truckers’ access to European roads”, rejecting the request for the current rules to remain in place after Brexit as “fundamentally unbalanced”. The paper reports that the move “has triggered anger in the UK”.

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The Financial Times reports that tech giant Apple has become the first US company to be valued at $2tn (£1.5tn) on the stock market. An analyst tells the paper that the tech giant’s growth is “really quite unbelievable”, while the paper itself reports that “Apple, too, has been surprised”.

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And the Daily Star warns readers of “hair-raising winds” ahead of Storm Ellen, which it says will “batter” the UK.

The Daily Telegraph leads with what it describes as “fresh exam turmoil” for close to half a million BTec students after the “11th hour” decision to withhold results due today. It says the development will heap further pressure on Education Secretary Gavin Williamson for not including BTecs in the original “about turn” on grades.

The Times says that Mr Williamson was told directly, six week ago, about the risk that A-level and GCSE grading would produce unfair results – but pushed ahead anyway. The paper says it was told by a “senior source” at the Department for Education that concerns about the statistical formula were raised in a letter by a former director general for schools – Sir Jon Coles.

A government source said Mr Williamson had raised the issue with the regulator, Ofqual, and had been “given assurances”. The Times suggests its “revelation” appears at odds with Mr Williamson’s claim that the scale of the problem only became clear at the weekend.

The Guardian, in a similar vein, says a warning was made to Ofqual about flaws in its grading algorithm, at least a month before A-level results were published. But the paper says the regulator pressed ahead because of longstanding ministerial pressure to prevent grade inflation.

The Guardian also believes this raises questions about when Mr Williamson became aware of the unfairness of the process.

Apple news

Apple’s astonishing success features prominently in the business pages after it became the first US company to hit a valuation of $2tn. According to The Times it was helped by a “lockdown sales surge” for products such as its iPad and iPhone.

The story is front page news for the Financial Times, which says Apple’s shares have risen more than 50% this year despite the company having to close stores, and being reliant on suppliers in China. But the FT warns that some analysts are concerned that shares may become over-valued.

The spread of coronavirus dominates the papers in Spain. El Mundo says cases have “skyrocketed” with 127 deaths in the last 24 hours. La Vanguardia reports that there were nearly 4,000 positive tests for Covid-19 on Wednesday – the most since the original lockdown was eased.

In France, Le Figaro reports that the number of infections there is rising – particularly among young adults. Le Monde says health measures against Covid-19 are increasing in large cities and tourist areas. Masks are now fully or partly compulsory in more than a third of French cities.

The Daily Express is one of those to pick up on an interview by the French chef Raymond Blanc with Country Life magazine. It highlights his comments that so many of his customers suffer food allergies, his kitchen has become “like a hospital” and food intolerance has become “almost like a fashion item”.

The Michelin-starred chef doesn’t accuse customers of making it up though – he suggests the allergies are a result of eating intensively farmed food containing chemicals. The Daily Telegraph highlights Mr Blanc’s suggestion that easy home food deliveries are making cooking “alien” to many. He’s quoted as saying: “We live busy lives and even an omelette requires effort”.

from the BBC

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