Education Secretary Michael Gove has said he will not overrule the exam watchdog's decision not to re-mark GCSE papers in a row over changes to grade boundaries.
He said he had "enormous sympathy" with the pupils who sat GCSEs this summer, but he refused to intervene to order Ofqual to regrade the papers.
"I cannot and should not do that. Ofqual, the regulator, is independent. If I start telling them what to do they are no longer independent and exams are no longer robust," he told Sky News.
He said: "I have enormous sympathy with the students who worked so hard, with parents who feel disappointed and also with teachers who put an enormous amount of effort in to make sure that young people can do as well as possible.
"The problem is that the GCSE examination is not designed appropriately. It is split up into units and modules and too many resits and retakes.
"What we needed to do is to have a new examination in which everyone sits the exam at the same time - and that examination makes sure that people develop a proper understanding of English language and a proper love of English literature, and we propose changes to these exams."
The Cabinet minister is facing calls to come to Parliament to explain why GCSE grade boundaries changed half way through the academic year.
Mr Gove is due to answer scheduled education questions from MPs in the Commons later, but Speaker John Bercow may face a request for an urgent question to the Education Secretary if he does not ask to make a formal statement.
Teaching unions have threatened legal action over the issue and claim thousands of teenagers who were expected to obtain a C grade pass in English were awarded a D grade after the grade boundary was raised last minute.
Headteachers claim those who sat the exam in June were put at an unfair disadvantage over those who sat them earlier in the year in January.
Ofqual was asked to investigate and acknowledged in its report into the GCSE English crisis that January's assessments were "graded generously", but the June boundaries were properly set.
It has rejected pleas to regrade the papers and has said resits will be allowed earlier than normal in November.
Labour's education spokesman Stephen Twigg raised the matter on Sunday's Sky News Murnaghan programme and demanded Mr Gove answer questions on the issue.
He said: "We expect him to come to Parliament and to set out what's going to happen because there is a basic unfairness here. If you were assessed in January you could get a grade C. The same quality of work, maybe even slightly better work, assessed in May and you would have got a D. That cannot be right.
"I'm all in favour of rigour, I'm in favour of making sure these are tough exams, but you can't change the boundaries in the middle of the year.
"We need a full inquiry into what went wrong, we need to make sure this doesn't happen again next year, which is why I have suggested the select committee on education should take a detailed look at that.
"But before then, we need to try and avert there being legal action... let's try to resolve this in the next few days.
"I think the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, should be calling Ofqual and the exam boards in to try to sort this out so that these young people aren't at a disadvantage."