GCSE grading alliance will pursue justice in the courts

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Secondary school leaders have cast doubt on the efficacy of this autumn's GCSE English re-sits, fearing the exercise is unlikely to see any wholesale improvements in grades. It comes as the alliance of local authorities, schools, unions and individual pup

Secondary school leaders have cast doubt on the efficacy of this autumn’s GCSE English re-sits, fearing the exercise is unlikely to see any wholesale improvements in grades.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he had “no confidence at all” in the offer by Ofqual and some awarding bodies to allow up to 45,000 candidates to re-sit the exam next month, at no cost to their schools.

Speaking to SecEd, he said that re-sits were “no way for young people to achieve the grades they require” for college, the workplace or to enter apprenticeships.

He continued: “If these examinations are marked on the same basis as those taken in the summer, then students will get the same results. If student grades suddenly improve then it will prove that there was a problem with the summer exams, which is something Ofqual and the awarding bodies are vehemently denying. It is simply not going to happen.

“There are thousands of students who will be re-sitting who are not in schools or colleges and who have had no access to the preparation that would be necessary to improve their grades six months after first taking them.

“Confidence by heads, teachers, parents and students in the examinations system has been absolutely shattered by this fiasco, and young people are being used as pawns. It is quite disgraceful.”

Mr Lightman’s comments come as the alliance of local authorities, schools, unions and individual pupils and parents prepares to escalate its legal action against Ofqual and awarding bodies.

A spokeswoman from the London Borough of Lewisham, which is spear-heading the action, told SecEd that preparations are underway to begin judicial proceedings. Ofqual and the awarding bodies AQA and Edexcel, meanwhile, are standing by this summer’s results.

A spokesman for the alliance said that following a meeting of legal representatives last Wednesday, it was decided to put forward a claim for a Judicial Review.

“We have now thoroughly examined the case that we have and we are convinced of (its) merits and the expectation that we will have success (in getting) the outcome we want, which is a regrade for students,” he said. “We will be putting our claim together and submitting it over the next week.”

Ofqual has been carrying out its own investigation in the marking fiasco, which saw tens of thousands of students receive lower than anticipated grades, and has visited 100 schools to find out the extent of the fall-out. However, it has said that it will “rigorously defend” its decision not to allow candidates’ papers to be up-graded, as has happened in Wales with WJEC candidates. An Ofqual spokesman said: “Our work to understand why some schools’ results differed significantly from their expectations is continuing and we will report again shortly.”

In Wales, Leighton Andrews, the education minister, ordered WJEC to regrade Welsh students’ English papers, resulting in nearly 2,400 improved results.

Mr Lightman added: “In England, we now have the ludicrous situation of Ofqual making statements about defending its actions while at the same time carrying out an investigation into what happened. This is a fight that is not going to go away and headteachers are adamant that they are going to get to the bottom of this injustice on pupils.”

A spokesman for Pearson, which owns Edexcel, said: “As we are in correspondence about proposed legal action, this matter is now with our legal team and we will not be making further comment at this time.” AQA has also declined to comment.

In a separate development last week, Glenys Stacey, Ofqual’s chief executive, told a conference of independent school heads that exam boards would be forced to reveal how A level and GCSE scripts are marked in response to schools’ anger at mistakes and inconsistencies in marking.

Awarding bodies will have to disclose who their examiners are, how they are recruited and trained and how their work is checked. Ofqual plans to publish an audit in March to highlight how weaknesses can be addressed. 

Ms Stacey, told the annual meeting of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, that candidates, their parents and teachers had a right to know more about how exam boards mark 15 million scripts each summer. Earlier, delegates were told how some examiners logged on at 5am to mark scripts before work, and that others read exam papers in pubs as they watched sports games.


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