Education Secretary Michael Gove was put on the spot over exam grading by a sixth-former during a tour of Yavneh College in Borehamwood last Friday.
The pupil asked Mr Gove if he thought it “fair that some students didn’t get into schools such as Yavneh because their English grades weren’t up to the school standards due to the grade boundaries changing so dramatically from last year?”
Mr Gove responded: “I think the fact that grade boundaries were so volatile is an issue.
“Ultimately the best person to make judgments over these things is the headteacher.
“The headteacher can look at someone’s grades and say — ‘we knew that was out of character, this is a good student who wants to work hard, we think you should come in’. We allow headteachers to exercise that sort of discretion.”
Deputy head Daniel Marcus said the issue had affected schools “across the board”.
Fifteen-year-old GCSE student Gideon Moss said afterwards that he had been “too nervous” to question Mr Gove, but was “worried because grade boundaries are harder than they were before”.
The minister told pupils he was “a great fan of faith schools. My experience is that children from faith schools grow up with an understanding of others and appreciate the importance of tolerance.”
School head Dr Dena Coleman said Mr Gove had “expressed an interest in seeing our outstanding school. It’s very rewarding to have official recognition.”
Yavneh chairman and driving force Malcolm Gordon said: “I still walk in and can’t believe it.
“There was a demand for a community school in Hertfordshire and it has grown more than we envisaged. Dr Coleman promised us and has delivered an amazing school in such a short period of time.”