Schools protest over 'unfair' exam that cost pupils dear

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The Independent Online

Thousands of pupils have been awarded lower grades at GCSE because they chose a syllabus that involved an end-of-course exam rather than coursework marked by their teachers, schools say.

Thousands of pupils have been awarded lower grades at GCSE because they chose a syllabus that involved an end-of-course exam rather than coursework marked by their teachers, schools say.

An exam watchdog is asking government advisers to investigate after complaints from schools that candidates of the same ability scored lower marks if they chose a GCSE maths exam rather than coursework.

The request from the new independent Exam Appeals Board will revive the controversy over whether coursework gives pupils an advantage. Traditionalists say exams are fairer because there is no question of candidates getting extra help. Teachers say coursework gives pupils a better chance to show what they can do.

Three schools that pursued their case to appeal said candidates in the maths exam took three papers. All took the first two before choosing whether to do another exam or to do coursework. They say the results showed that on the third paper the coursework group did much better.

John Foster, head of Ponteland County High School, Northumberland, said: "We are very unhappy because we feel an injustice has been done. We believe between 30 and 35 students were put at a disadvantage." He is consulting lawyers about taking the case further.

Edxecel, the exam board involved, said it had followed all the procedures properly andwas confident it had been fair to all candidates.

The appeals board dismissed the appeals from Ponteland, Hurstpierpoint College in West Sussex and Gordano School in North Somerset because it believed the exam board had done all it could to make the exam fair. But it wrote to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority about its concern that candidates who took the end-of- course paper had been put at a disadvantage.

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