Marked exam papers can be viewed by students in future

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STUDENTS WHO appeal against GCSE and A-level results, due tomorrow, will in future be able to see their marked exam papers.

A-level results are expected to show a record pass-rate, with a small increase in the number of candidates awarded a grade A.

David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education, announced the appeal changes yesterday. He is also considering whether to let all students see their marked papers and examiners' comments, whether or not they are considering an appeal.

National test papers for 11- and 14-year-olds are already returned to schools for checking.

Mr Blunkett said: "Public examinations are a vital part of education and for many represent the culmination of years of hard work. We need to ensure that not only the standards of these examinations are maintained but that those preparing for examinations - teachers, candidates and their parents - can be confident that the results are a true and fair reflection of attainment."

He also ordered the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to review the appeals procedure and the speed with which appeals are completed. A panel of independent experts will help to monitor exam standards over time.

Appeals have risen sharply since school league tables were introduced. Last year those to the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance were up by nearly a third.

George Turnbull, a spokesman for the Alliance, welcomed the move to more openness but pointed out that it was not unusual for candidates who appealed to be shown their papers. "If everyone gets a right to see their scripts there is a problem of logistics, with between 15 and 20 million pieces of assessment for GCSE and A-level," he said.

Mr Blunkett believes that the changes are an important step towards freedom of information in education.

All students in New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland are already allowed access to marked public examination papers.

Owen Evans, deputy general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said the changes should help both teachers and pupils do better but he added: "Public examinations are already very costly. The question is, will entry fees have to go up?"

The Independent Appeals Authority for School Examinations, the final arbiter of GCSE and A-level appeals, said some complaints were taking as long as 10 months to reach it.

This year, for the first time, there will be a time limit of 20 days on appeals against A-level results which determine university entrance.