We won’t regrade your GCSE papers, watchdog tells pupils

Headteachers furious as Ofqual insists the marks given to pupils in June were ‘right'

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The Independent Online

Headteachers today warned they could still mount a legal challenge over GCSE English, as Ofqual said that this summer's results will not be re-graded.

The exams watchdog Ofqual tonight ruled out any regrading of this summer’s GCSE English results insisting the marks given to pupils in June were “right” – provoking fury from headteachers’ leaders.

It admitted grade boundaries had been changed between January and June – a move which meant up to 65,000 candidates missed out on sixth-form and college places – but declared: “The June boundaries are right.”

Ofqual insisted it was “generous” marking in January that led to exam boards revising the grade boundaries – but said the higher grades awarded to January candidates would not be changed because of the likely furore that would cause.

The move was immediately condemned by headteachers’ leaders who warned they may still resort to legal action to try to get the June grade boundaries changed.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “What is clear is that there has been a systematic failure in the awarding bodies.”

He dismissed a suggestion by Ofqual and the exam board to allow June students to resit the exams in November free of charge as “not acceptable or practicable”.

“Many will have left their schools and decisions about their apprenticeships and further courses of study are being made now as term starts and enrolment in most schools and colleges is already under way.”

He added: “If necessary, ASCL will resort to a legal action to challenge this unfairness. There are many lessons to learn but seeking to apportion blame will do nothing to resolve this urgent crisis affecting many thousands of students today.”

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, added: “This is a very weak and disappointing report and we reiterate the fact that there needs to be an independent inquiry. It still remains the fact that it is simply scandalous to change the grade boundaries halfway through the school year.”

Ofqual’s report said exam boards faced difficulties because this was the first year of a new syllabus being examined.

With the evidence accrued from the seven per cent of candidates who sat the exams in January, the boards changed the boundaries for June and acted correctly in their decision making, Ofqual said.

“The June grade boundaries were properly set and candidates’ work properly graded,” the report added. It would have been wrong for Ofqual to order a regrading because that would have been in conflict with its remit to ensure standards are kept the same over time.

Last night’s report is also likely to lead to a political row when Parliament resumes next week.

While Education secretary Michael Gove has strenuously denied any involvement in the marking of exams, critics claim it was the pressure he and Ofqual put on exam boards to avoid grade inflation and “dumbing down2 that led to them revising the boundaries.

Stephen Twigg, Labour’s education spokesman, said the Ofqual report was “not good enough” and called upon Mr Gove to make a statement to Parliament when it resumes on Monday.

Exam boards largerly welcomed the report thoughAndrew Hall, chief executive of the AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance), acknowledged: “I know this news will provide little comfort to students and schools who didn’t get the results they were expecting.”

Meanwhile, a dramatic rise in the number of independent schools that have ditched the GCSE exam because they consider it “too easy” is revealed today (Saturday).

Results from Britain’s independent schools show the number of candidates who have switched to the more traditional IGCSE has gonr up by nearly 50 per cent in the past year - from 16.7 per cent of all scripts to 24.9 per cent.

The IGCSE is modelled along the lines of the old O-level with more attention focussed on the end-of-syllabuse exam and was first introduced by the exam boards when man Commonwealth countries wanted to retain the O level when the GCSE was introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Bernice McCabe, headmistress of North london Collegiate School, which came second in the GCSE exam league tables published today by the Independent Schools Council,said that many GCSE exams were becoming “insufficiently rigorous”.

English, maths and science have been the major subjects to show a shift to the IGCSE.

Her school achieved a 100per cent success rate in getting pupils to a C grade pass in both the GCSE and IGCSE - 97.1 per cent were awarded an A* or A grade pass.

Ms McCabe, who advises Prince Charles on education, put her school’s success down to having a vibrant curriculum with a wide range of opportunities for pupils.

She added:  “A very dull diet of preparing for exams doesn’t inspire anyone.”

Overall, the independent sector - like the state sector -saw a fall in the A* to C grade pass rate including maths and English to94.4 per cent from 95.2 per cent.  The number of A* grades also fell by 1.1 percentage points

Meanwhile, a review of the GCSE English grades in Northern Ireland has been ordered by its assembly in the wake of the controversy over last minute changes to the grades boundaires - which led to thousands of pupils expecting a C grade to get a D grade.