Examiner is sacked after GCSE 'fix' claims

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A senior examiner who claimed that GCSE results were being deliberately "fixed" by reducing the level of pass marks has been sacked.

Jeffrey Robinson is accused by his employers, the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Board (OCR), of "breaching confidentiality" after voicing his concerns in public.

Mr Robinson, who had retired after 16 years as one of the principal examiners for mathematics but was still marking international exams, accused his former employers of acting out of "spite" because he had exposed "the truth".

He said: "Everyone who works for exam boards must be scared to speak out, otherwise they're going to get the sack. It is a conspiracy of silence." He is considering legal action.

Ken Murray, chief executive of Cambridge International Examinations – OCR's international wing – said he would not go into details that could jeopardise future court action. However, he added: "Mr Robinson has been relieved of his duties because of breach of contract."

Mr Robinson, who spoke out in the summer, on the day GCSE results were received by around 600,000 candidates, said grade boundaries were lowered repeatedly during the 1990's to achieve better pass rates.

He said candidates in 1989 who took an intermediate-level paper set by the OCR board's predecessor would have needed to score 65 per cent to get a C grade. That was reduced to 45 per cent by last year. The grade boundary for one type of higher level paper had been reduced from 48 per cent in 1989 to 18 per cent, he said.

However, 13 of his fellow examiners, in a letter leaked to The Independent on Sunday, distanced themselves from his criticisms. They argued that the examination was now more difficult and – as a result – there was a change in the marking system in 1994. Since then, they said, grade boundaries had hardly changed.

They accused Mr Robinson of being "misguided" and doing "a grave disservice to the children taking GCSEs and the teachers striving to give of their best".

Meanwhile, Estelle Morris, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, flatly refused yesterday to give an undertaking to resign next year if the Government fails to meet its targets for improvements in test results for 11-year-olds in English and maths.

David Blunkett, her predecessor, promised to resign four years ago if his targets of helping 80 per cent of students to the required standard in English and 75 per cent in maths were not met. He has since moved to the Home Office.

This year's results ended three successive years of improvements. English results remained static at 75 per cent while the percentage in maths actually went down by one percentage point to 71 per cent – leaving the Government struggling to reach the targets for the first time.

However, Ms Morris, asked yesterday if she would resign by Liberal Democrat MP Paul Turner at the House of Commons Education Select Committee, said: "No. I have never said I would. Whatever happens throughout all our political lives, improvements in literacy and numeracy in primary schools was probably the greatest thing we ever did.

"If we were to miss the targets by one per cent or two per cent, I still think it would have been a huge success."