Students may be marked down in exam appeals

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A new examination appeals system will jeopardise the chance of deserving students getting to university, headteachers warned on Friday.

A new examination appeals system will jeopardise the chance of deserving students getting to university, headteachers warned on Friday.

A-level and GCSE candidates will be told this year that, for the first time, their grades could go down as well as up if they decide to appeal against their results. Up until now, examiners had to turn a blind eye if they found the original marks had been too generous and could only upgrade candidates or leave their grades unchanged.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "It must have been introduced to cut down on the number of appeals and that is what it will do. I don't think the people who have introduced this have thought through the implications of their decision.

"I think it will deter students who have a genuine case but who are worried that by making an appeal they run the risk of being put in a worse situation."

Schools which believe there has been incompetent marking in a subject and want their set of scripts remarked will have to gain written permission from each candidate. In a report yesterday, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Government's examinations watchdog, said: "Candidates must understand the implications of the process before giving their consent to a clerical re-check or re-mark of an externally assessed paper. It is the responsibility of schools to advise them that their grades may be lowered, raised or confirmed."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads' Association, said: "I think people recognised that something needs to be down to the appeals system to avoid delays. Our main aim has to be to speed the system up. The whole thing should be dealt with 10 times more quickly than it is."

He was concerned, however, that schools may find more obstacles put in their way in calling for a re-mark of all the scripts in a particular subject if they had to get written permission from each candidate.

A spokesman for the Department of Education and Skills said the new system had been agreed "in a spirit of fairness. All candidates should receive the marks they deserve".

Candidates also now had the right to see their scripts and the way they had been marked before deciding whether to appeal. "Hopefully, this will help them in deciding whether to appeal," said the spokesman.

Exam board officers felt the new system would make no difference to candidates who were just short of a grade. It was only those who were well short of a grade and probably would not have been marked up under the old system who would be put off.

Headteachers will monitor the changes this year before deciding whether to press for a return of the old system.

Last year there were 25,406 appeals over A-level marking involving 29,628 candidates. A total of 4,644 papers were upgraded. In GCSEs, there were 24,462 appeals covering 57,772 candidates – 6,601 of which were successful.

¿ The Scottish Qualifications Authority has admitted that up to 1,600 students could receive incomplete exam results as a result of checks having to be carried out on anomalies in marking. But it insists there will be no repeat of last year's fiasco of results arriving late.