Heads demand appeals extension in GCSE row

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Headteachers have demanded an extension to today's deadline for schools to appeal GCSE grades as the grading row continues unabated.

Headteachers have demanded an extension to today’s deadline for schools to appeal GCSE grades as the grading row continues unabated.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has also called for appeals to be allowed against controlled assessments – something awarding bodies have so far refused and wants fees for such appeals to be waived in the interests of “natural justice”.

ASCL sets out its demands in an open letter to Ofqual’s chief regulator Glenys Stacey. As it stands, the deadline for appeals is today (Thursday, September 20).

In the letter, ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman writes: “Appeals against gradings for controlled assessments must be allowed. These have, to date, been refused on the grounds that marking was deemed to be correct by moderators, even though those judgements do not match the final grades awarded. 

“Allowing these appeals would help Ofqual to identify those schools where further analysis is necessary in order to understand the nature of the problem which you have so far been unable to explain.

“Fees for such appeals should be waived in the interests of natural justice. No student should be prevented from having their assessments scrutinised because of financial constraints.

“The immense human cost to what has been happening over the recent weeks cannot be underestimated. I therefore ask for an early response to these demands.”

An Ofqual spokesperson told SecEd: “We are aware of ASCL’s calls regarding appeals and will consider them with the exam boards as we continue our work to investigate the concerns over the GCSE English results.”

It comes as Graham Stuart, chairman of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, admitted that they still had “many unanswered questions” after last week’s hearings into the GCSE situation.

Last Tuesday (September 11), the committee heard evidence from headteachers and Ofqual, including from Mr Lightman and Ms Stacey. A day later, the committee quizzed education secretary Michael Gove.

During the hearings, Mr Lightman told MPs that he believed the exam grades in June had been pushed downwards in a bid to cancel out “over-generous” marks in January. Ms Stacey, however, said that the June grade boundary setting was done “properly”. During his appearance, Mr Gove rejected suggestions that he should set up an independent inquiry and instead said schools should appeal their grades if they are unhappy. The minister restated that he would not intervene with an independent regulator.

After the hearings, Mr Stuart said: “The evidence we have taken this week on the GCSE English exam results for 2012 has left many questions unanswered. The Education Committee will continue its scrutiny of this important matter. We intend to get to the bottom of what happened and how it happened.

“Our next step will be to ask further detailed questions of Ofqual in writing and we will publish these and their response in due course.”

Elsewhere, legal action, led by the newly formed alliance of unions, local authorities and other organisations, now looks likely. A statement on the ASCL website said it was “proactively supporting action led by Lewisham Council”.

The alliance’s members include ASCL, the National Association of Head Teachers, teachers unions, independent school associations and others.

The alliance has also set up an e-petition on the government’s website which, if it gains more than 100,000 signatories, will lead to a debate in Parliament on the issue.

The e-petition calls for the government to “set up a full inquiry to investigate the fall in GCSE English results and to justify the differences between winter and summer awards in 2012”. At the time of writing, it has 5,600 signatories. You can sign the petition at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/37620


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