More than 18,000 school exams marked wrongly

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The Independent Online

A dramatic rise in the number of teenagers given the wrong GCSE and A-level grades last summer has been revealed by the Government's exams watchdog.

A dramatic rise in the number of teenagers given the wrong GCSE and A-level grades last summer has been revealed by the Government's exams watchdog.

A total of 18,359 exam scripts were marked wrongly - a rise of 1,467 (9 per cent) on the previous year's figures, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) report shows.

The biggest rise was in A and AS-levels, where the figures soared from 6,649 to 7,565 - almost 14 per cent.

Headteachers' leaders warned that Britain's examination system was at breaking point, with exam boards finding it difficult to recruit enough teachers to mark the papers.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, demanded "urgent reform". He said the increase in grade changes was caused by marking mistakes because of the volume of tests (12.7 million last year).

"This is an inevitable consequence of our over-bloated examination system, which urgently needs to be slimmed down and made more efficient," he added.

He said ministers had missed an opportunity to solve the problem by refusing to accept the recommendations of a government inquiry into 14-to-19 education that called for a major reduction in testing.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said that marking "leaves a lot to be desired". He added: "The QCA does need to get its house in order and get these figures down. Each case is a student who has been deprived of the appropriate grades. That is a serious issue."

Exam boards blamed the increasingly high stakes placed on exams and said more schools and parents wanted to lodge complaints.

The biggest rise was at the Edexcel board, which saw the number of graded changes to A and AS-levels more than double, from 1,681 to 3,383.

Edexcel said the figures were "disappointing", but said it was "a one-year ano- maly". Its number of scripts marked had increased dramatically with the inclusion of vocational A-levels.

A breakdown of the figures shows that 10,773 candidates were awarded the wrong grade in GCSE exams - and had their grades changed as a result of a recheck.

The QCA was at pains to play down the significance of the figures - claiming they amounted to well under 1 per cent of the total number of papers taken.

At A and AS-level, candidates sat a total of 6,755,731 units for their exams. Each A-level is made up of six units. At GCSE level, there were 5,992,330 entries - so the total number of remarks was just under 0.2 per cent.

Instead, the QCA said that its "fast-track" - guaranteeing a remark within 20 days for candidates whose university places depend on their results - had achieved an almost 100 per cent success rate.

Only four of the 8,663 complaints made under this system failed to be marked within the time-scale.

* Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said yesterday that ministers had "grossly exaggerated" improvements in primary school standards.

She said the rise in the number of children reaching the required standard in English and maths at 11 "cannot ... represent value for the millions of pounds from the public purse that has been spent on the national strategies and statutory assessments".

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