Record exam grade appeals expected

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The Independent Online

Britain's exam boards are bracing themselves for a record number of appeals against exam grades this summer in the wake of last year's A-level exams fiasco.

Officials at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Government's exams watchdog, expect a number of schools to "try it on" as a result of a loss of confidence in marking standards.

Almost 2,000 A-level students had their results upgraded, although only a handfulgained first-choice university places as a result.

Officials say many schools will believe they have "nothing to lose" by appealing, just in case there is a re-run of the marking controversy. However, they are adamant that there is unlikely to be a repeat of last year's saga.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said last night: "I think schools will be encouraged to appeal more as a result of what happened last year." However, he added: "It would be quite imprudent of them simply to bash in appeals willy-nilly because we had a fiasco last year."

An official investigation into what happened last year by Mike Tomlinson, the former chief schools inspector, criticised ministers for failing to pilot A2's - the second half of the new A-level introduced in 2000. As a result, he argued, examiners had little experience to go on to know what standards they should be marking to.

New safeguards have been introduced so that a dispute between a chief examiner and chief executive over grade boundaries now has to be referred to the QCA to sort out.