Thousands of teenagers lost a fight to have their GCSE English results re-graded yesterday after the High Court rejected a claim that exam bosses had acted unlawfully in changing the C grade boundaries between January and June sittings last summer.
Lord Justice Elias ruled that the fault lay with the structure of the exam rather than any unlawful action by exams regulator Ofqual or the exam boards.
The decision was greeted with "bitter disappointment" by the alliance of headteachers, schools, local authorities, pupils and teachers' organisations who had jointly brought the legal challenge.
Their action stemmed from the decision of exam boards – under pressure from Ofqual – to raise grade boundaries for those sitting the exam in June after concern that January candidates had been treated too generously.
Lord Elias said in his judgement: "Whichever way it [Ofqual] chose to resolve the problem, there was going to be an element of unfairness. If it imposed the same standard in June as it had in January, this would be unjust to subsequent cohorts of students taking the units in subsequent years." He concluded that the structure of the qualification was the source of unfairness, "not any unlawful action".
Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Thousands of young people had their exams unfairly downgraded last June in order to compensate for mistakes earlier in the year."
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