Text of statement by Mike Tomlinson, Chairman of the Inquiry into A-level Standards

I was asked by the Secretary of State to inquire into the allegations about the setting of standards for A-level grades this year, giving particular attention to the grading process. Can I stress two things:

The marking process is quite separate and my inquiry has not considered this. Indeed, other than the normal requests for re-marking there has been very little concern expressed about marking;

The concerns expressed have not in their detail concerned all units at A2 level, nor all subjects.

That said, my concern has been to resolve the anxiety and concern many students, parents and teachers have expressed. Whatever the proportion of students thought to be affected, they deserve to be awarded a grade commensurate with the standards of their work relative to the overall standard for GCE A-level.

From the evidence collected, it appears that the alleged problem with the grading process this summer has its roots in decisions made by the DfES and QCA about the structure of the AS and A-level awards, the assessment model and the preparation for the introduction of the new arrangements, particularly for A2. The lack of a common understanding of the standard associated with AS and A2 units, along with the challenges associated with aggregation of the units, given all had equal weighting, played a significant part in the problems experienced by the three examination boards during the grading this year.

In relation to the grading process, there is no doubt in my mind that to varying extents the three Chief Executives felt they were being put under additional pressure to deliver outcomes largely in line with the performance of students in 2001. I am equally clear that the QCA, and in particular the Chairman, had stressed throughout the need to maintain the A-level standard and prevent 'grade drift'. The differences in perception of what was said at meetings and in subsequent letters is, however, a reality. The Chief Executives clearly passed on their perception to staff and examiners.

I am satisfied that the requirements the QCA places on the boards, and as set out in correspondence, were all proper and in line with the regulatory responsibilities.

I am equally satisfied that the actions of the Chief Executives of these boards, as accountable officers, were all done within the parameters of the Code of Practice. In this regard, they acted with integrity.

That said, the evidence strongly suggests that the actions taken with regard to the marks to be associated with the key grade boundaries (A/B and E/U) did vary across the three boards. In particular, it seems the balance between judgement based on the standard of marked work and the use of statistical information changed, and for more subjects in one Board (OCR) than in the other two. I must, however, stress that as the code of practice gives no detailed guidance on this matter, all the actions must be seen as proper. The impact of these significant changes to the marks associated with unit grade boundaries, on the overall grades at GCE A level of the students affected is impossible for me to say.

At the root of this is a longstanding misunderstanding of the difference between maintaining a standard and the proportion of candidates meeting that standard and hence deserving to be awarded a GCE A level. This misunderstanding appears to exist at almost all levels of the system, and in society at large.

My inquiry has been offered no evidence that Ministers offered any guidance on the expected outcomes of this year's A-level examinations. Nor was any present in the notes of meetings between Ministers and QCA officers. I therefore conclude that there was none.

I am satisfied, based on the evidence available, that the actions of the boards during the grading exercise arose from the pressure they perceived that they were under from the QCA both to maintain the standard and achieve an outcome which was more or less in line with the results in 2001. These two demands are not compatible, and even less so this year, given the modular structure of the award.

The most important issue is what is to be done. The major recommendation in the report is that some regrading of A2 units should be done, which if changed could influence the overall grade. No grade will, however, go down. To decide which units in which subjects, and hence how many students will be affected, are beyond my current knowledge. For that reason I am recommending the boards be asked to provide me with additional data, I will then decide not only which units are to be regraded but also the manner and extent of regrading. This will be done by end of Tuesday 1 October. I anticipate the Board or Boards involved can then proceed very quickly, hopefully by the end of next week. The inevitable question arises of how many subjects are affected. Early and very rough estimates suggest about 12 subjects (sometimes more than one A2 unit for each).

Given this I have to make clear that this is a relatively small number - though vital each student is affected - and it does not paint a picture of an examining system in crisis.

Finally, I wish to repeat that I have no evidence that anyone acted improperly. A difficult task was tackled within a framework which I believe is rather too complex and imprecise, thus capable of accommodating slightly different, but nevertheless justifiable, interpretations of what is actually required. I end here because that statement is the prelude to the second stage of my inquiry, due to report in November.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windo...

Guru Careers: Product Training Specialist / Software Trainer

£25 - 32,500K (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Produ...

Recruitment Genius: Unqualified NVQ Assessors - Health, Social Care & Management

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions