Board chastised for too lenient maths marking

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An exam board was too lenient in its marking of maths and science GCSE exams last summer, an official inquiry said yesterday, writes Judith Judd.

The inquiry by the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority investigated why there was a 10 per cent rise in B grades awarded by two boards and a fall in the number of Cs.

It found marking by the Southern Examining Group was too lenient. The report was less critical of the University of London Examination and Assessment Council but found the standard for grade B for borderline candidates in science was not acceptable. Candidates will not have grades changed as a result of the inquiry.

Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education, said standards for GCSE grades were appropriate in most cases. But she added: "I am concerned at the evidence of a degree of variation . . . at the grade boundary of B and C by two groups in particular syllabuses. It is important that all necessary action is taken to prevent such a situation occurring again."

Marking procedures are to be tightened to ensure grades are consistent between boards.

George Turnbull, of the Southern Examining Group, said that officials from the authority had attended the meetings at which grades had been awarded and had not commented on the paper or the grades. He said that inspectors from the Office for Standards inEducation had concluded standards of marking had been carried forward from 1993.

Mrs Shephard has also agreed the number of syllabuses offered by the five boards in English, maths and science should be cut back to one in English and two each in maths and science. At present there are about 20 maths syllabuses and 15 for double-award science.