Sharp rise in number of GCSE and A-level papers wrongly marked fuels concerns over standards


A dramatic rise in the number of GCSE and A-level papers wrongly marked by examiners this summer is revealed in figures released today.

The figures, released by exams regulator, Ofqual, show that the number of grades wrongly awarded has soared by 18.7 per cent to 45,630 this year.

The findings are bound to fuel concerns expressed by Britain’s leading independent schools over the standards of exam marking.

In a study  published last month, the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) - which represents 250 of the country’s most elite private schools warned that “shocking” failings in exam marking could torpedo Education Secretary Michael Gove’s plans to reform GCSEs and A-levels.

Ofqual said that the rise could be down to changes in the structures of the exams but headteachers will undoubtedly argue that the fiasco of this year’s GCSE English marking - where grade boundaries were changed between January and June sittings of the exam - has undermined confidence in the system.

Today’s report from Ofqual shows there were 279, 046 queries over exam scripts this summer - a 36 per cent increase on the previous year.

The bulk of the queries (187, 356) were over GCSE exam marks - with 91, 690 querying their A-level results.

Grade changes at GCSE rose to 31,510 this year - meaning one in every 200 papers was wrongly marked. 

For A-levels, the figure was 14,120 scripts changed - 0.57 per cent of the total number sat.

“For both GCSE and A-level, there has been a steady increase in the percentage of enquiries that result in qualification grade changes over the last five years,” the report says.

The biggest rise was in requests for scripts to be re-marked (rather than just having the marks checked) - where enquiries at GCSE level rose by 49 per cent to 183, 838.  The number of scripts awarded a new grade rose 24 per cent to 25,117.

Headteachers, local councils and individual pupils are mounting a legal challenge over Ofqual’s refusal to regrade English GCSE papers - as has happened in Wales.  A High Court hearing into their request for a judicial review of the case will be heard next month.