Lawyers acting for an alliance of organisations and individuals seeking redress following last summer’s GCSE English marking fiasco have been preparing their case, which will be heard in court next week.
The judicial review, scheduled to begin on Tuesday (December 11), follows more than three months of verbal wrangling between the alliance members – comprising local authorities, schools, headteachers, parents and students – and the examinations regulator Ofqual and awarding bodies.
Last summer’s GCSE results saw thousands of students apparently down-graded in their English language paper. The war of words has seen Ofqual suggesting that teachers were overly generous in their marking, while heads claim that grade boundaries were secretly and unfairly shifted.
The legal preparations were continuing as it was revealed that the number of appeals over marking of all papers rose dramatically this year.
Figures from Ofqual showed that there were 279,046 queries over exam scripts following last summer’s exams – a 36 per cent rise on the previous year. Most of these were over GCSE exam marks, with the rest – almost 92,000 - querying A level results.
Grade changes at GCSE rose to 31,510 this year, meaning one in every 200 papers was wrongly marked. For A levels, the figure was 14,120 scripts changed – 0.57 per cent of the total number sat.
The report said: “For both GCSE and A level, there has been a steady increase in the percentage of enquiries that result in qualification grade changes over the last five years.”
Russell Hobby , general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “Our senior lawyer has been working very closely with the alliance to prepare for the judicial review. The outcome will not only, we hope, achieve justice for those young people who were caught up in this year’s mess, but signal a change of direction for the whole assessment process.
“Confidence in our exam system was dealt a serious blow by the decision to change grading boundaries mid-year and by Ofqual’s refusal to accept responsibility for the misery it caused to so many. We hope the court case will help trigger a review of assessment so we can start restoring faith in the way we measure students’ skills and abilities.”
Kenny Frederick, head of George Green’s school, in London, who last week issued Freedom of Information requests challenging Ofqual to reveal further details of its own report into the scandal, said: “I am hoping to see justice done for the thousands of young people who have suffered from this fiasco.
“Whatever happens, I am satisfied that we have done everything we can. My colleagues across the country are united in our assertion that what has happened this year was a complete travesty of justice. This is why we have acted as we have. Our trust in the establishment has gone and we will continue to look closely at such issue in the future. We will not keep quiet.”
Sir Steve Bullock, mayor of Lewisham, the local authority which is spear-heading the legal action, said: “It is plain to see that what has happened is just not fair. But Ofqual and the boards have refused the opportunity to clear up their own mess. We have been left with no alternative but to pursue this through the courts to get justice for our young people.
“What we want is all pupils in this cohort to be treated in a fair, consistent and rational manner. The solution is simple – re-grade the summer exams in line with the boundaries used in January.”