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Education News

GCSE English legal challenge due


A legal challenge over the GCSE English fiasco is due to be submitted to the High Court in the next week, it was announced today.

The unprecedented action is being brought by an alliance of pupils, schools, councils and professional bodies, angry at decisions which meant thousands of teenagers missed out on C grades.

A spokesman for the alliance said that following a meeting of legal representatives earlier today, it was decided that a claim for a judicial review will be put forward.

"We have now thoroughly examined the case that we have and we are convinced of the merits of our case, and the expectation that we will have a success to get the outcome we want - which is a re-grade for students," he said.

"We will be putting our claim together and submitting it over the next week."

Today's meeting came a week after Ofqual, England's exams regulator, responded to a pre-action letter sent by the alliance, vowing to "rigorously defend" its decisions over this summer'sGCSE English results.

The letter, which was sent to the AQA and Edexcel exam boards as well as Ofqual three weeks ago, set out plans for legal action over decisions by the boards to increase the boundary for a grade C in GCSE English between January and June.

It also proposed taking action against what they claim was a failure by Ofqual to address the situation.

Ofqual responded two weeks later with a spokesman saying the regulator was "rigorously defending our decisions".

"Our work to understand why some schools' results differed significantly from their expectations is continuing and we will report again shortly," he added.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), which is part of the alliance, today said: "We are very disappointed that Ofqual and the awarding bodies have refused to take responsibility for their actions and to acknowledge that many thousands of young people's career ambitions have been undermined by a failure to implement the new qualification properly."

He said that the union, which represents the majority of secondary school and college leaders, is "determined to proceed to legal action and is working closely with other members of the alliance on this."

In its pre-action letter, the alliance argued that pupils who took GCSE English in June have been treated with "conspicuous unfairness".

It called for June's papers to be regraded in line with the January C grade boundaries.

If this does not happen, the alliance said it will seek a judicial review.

The row over the English exams broke out as national GCSE results were published in August.

Ofqual conducted an inquiry into the fiasco, which concluded that January's GCSE English assessments were "graded generously" but the June boundaries were properly set and candidates' work properly graded.

The regulator insisted it would be inappropriate for either of the sets of exams to be regraded. Instead, students will be given an extra chance to resit the GCSE in November.

In Wales, education minister Leighton Andrews ordered the WJEC exam board to regrade Welsh students' English papers.

As a result, last month nearly 2,400 pupils who took English with the exam board received better results, after a review of the marking system.

Mr Lightman said that the decision to offer pupils an early resit is "a completely inadequate response".

It is a damage limitation exercise that will only erode public confidence in the exam system further. We know that thousands of students who sat the exam in June and got a D grade achieved the same level of work as their fellow students who took the exams in January and received a C. It is only because of when they took the exam that they are being penalised and told to resit the exam. This is unfair."

Resits will affect students' immediate options, their academic records and future applications, Mr Lightman said.