The government’s U-turn over exam results will come as a “great relief” to students and parents, the incoming general secretary of the HMC has said.

Following the decision by the government to allow teacher-assessed grades to determine exam results, Dr Simon Hyde, head of the King's School, Macclesfield, said: “The decision on exam grading will come as a great relief to hundreds of thousands of students and parents. 

“It will also provide welcome consistency for heads and teachers who have always had their pupils' best interests at heart. It's not perfect but it will do.

“The decision to trust teachers to be the best judges of the abilities of their pupils will go a long way to restoring public confidence in the exams system. While the new process is far from problem free, it is the fairest way forward in the circumstances and I know HMC heads will raise themselves to make it work.

“Ofqual's decision will also allow them more time to focus on the safe reopening of their schools in September, the best way to provide all pupils with the education they need.

'Now we need urgent clarity on how universities intend to manage admissions, as there are currently limits to the number of places they can offer. Schools cannot afford a further period of confusion.”

Under the computer-based standardisation process, independent schools did better overall than state schools because it appeared to favour small cohorts.

The percentage of A or A* grades rose by 4.7 per cent at independent schools this year, from 43.9 per cent to 48.6 per cent.

However, heads said there were many “individual tragedies” beneath the good news.

Simon Henderson, headmaster of Eton College, said that several pupils had had grades lowered in a way that appeared “manifestly unfair”.

In one subject, he said, it was the first year pupils at the school had studied a particular syllabus, and so there was no direct historic data on prior performance.

Rather than accept teacher-assessed grades or look at other historic data, he wrote, the board chose instead to take the global spread of results for 2019 and apply that to its cohort.

“This failed to take any account of the fact Eton is an academically selective school with a much narrower ability range than the global spread. The results awarded to many boys in this subject bore no relation at all to their CAGs [Centre Assessed Grades] or to their ability. Several have lost university places as a result.”

Following yesterday afternoon’s U-turn however, all students will be awarded their Centre Assessed Grades, but they can keep the grades offered up by the algorithm if they are higher.