GCSEs will be regraded for pupils in Wales - but Ofqual refuses to reassess the grades in England
Move piles pressure on Ofqual as it emerges that watchdog told exam board to raise the bar
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Tuesday 11 September 2012
Hundreds of teenagers in Wales will have their GCSE English papers regraded despite continued refusals to change results in England.
Leighton Andrews, the Welsh education minister, last night said pupils had been victims of an "injustice" following the row over students being awarded lower grades that expected last month. He has ordered the WJEC exam board to re-award its GCSE English language grades for around 1,000 students.
The move is likely to pile pressure on Ofqual, the exams watchdog, which has refused to reassess the grades in England. It emerged yesterday Ofqual told examiners to raise English GCSE grade boundaries two weeks before the results were published.
The revelation, which appears to contradict the findings of the watchdog's initial investigation, led to calls for the head of Ofqual, Glenys Stacey, to resign. The demand from the headteacher John Townsley, a former Ofqual board member and principal of two academies, came ahead of Ms Stacey's evidence today to an investigation by the Commons Select Committee on Education.
In a series of letters between Ofqual and the Edexcel exam board, it emerges that Ofqual demanded the boundaries be raised despite examiners insisting they were "fair".
Ms Stacey concluded the eventual grade boundaries were correct and set by examiners "using their best professional judgement, taking into account all the evidence available to them". However, the letters, obtained by the Times Educational Supplement, revealed their judgement had been overruled. The last-minute changes led to up to 65,000 teenagers failing to gain a C grade pass. Last night Mr Townsley, executive principal of Morley and Farnley academies in Leeds, accused Ms Stacey of "bullying" the exam boards.
Ofqual's director of standards, Dennis Opposs, wrote to Edexcel on 7 August, concerned the board was about to award results for GCSE English that would see the proportion of pupils with C grades rise by 8 per cent. He called on it to act "quickly" and "produce outcomes that are much closer to predictions. This may require you to move grade boundary marks."
Edexcel replied on 8 August that its grade boundaries were "fair". Ofqual replied saying it was obliged to ensure the results were consistent with other boards, which were nearer to predictions. Last night Edexcel confirmed it had made "certain reservations" known to Ofqual.
new round of teachers' strikes looms
Fresh strikes by teachers and other public sector workers moved closer yesterday, putting the unions on collision course with both Labour and the Coalition Government.
Amid growing calls for anti-Government protests at the TUC conference in Brighton, Ed Miliband warned union leaders last night that strikes would not win public support. He said: "It's what's happening in our economy that makes so many people angry with the Government. The question is how best to get them to change course?"
Members of the two biggest teaching unions will begin a work-to-rule on 26 September. The TUC's general council backed a call to consider the practicalities of a strike over pay and pensions.
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