GCSE results 'were accurate and valid'

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THIS YEAR'S GCSE results were 'accurate and valid', Dennis Hatfield, chairman of the Joint Council for the GCSE, said yesterday.

His direct rebuff to ministers who are demanding action to tighten up standards of examining came as the six examining bodies met in Belfast for their annual conference.

The four English GCSE groups, along with those in Wales and Northern Ireland, know that their future is under review by John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, in the wake of a report by HM Inspectors which concluded that there could have been a gradual erosion of standards.

His demand for changes in examining procedures was re- emphasised on the eve of the conference by Baroness Blatch, the Minister of State for Education.

Mr Hatfield, who has already accused Mr Patten of 'scaremongering', hoped that the examining bodies would take a positive attitude to 'setting anything wrong right again'. He said: 'The groups must exercise discipline rather than have it imposed from outside. We are ready and willing to do that.' Some observers expect Mr Patten to impose tighter control of the examining bodies' syllabuses and procedures.

But the groups will probably survive as separate bodies, if only because the competition between them keeps costs low and satisfies Tory market instincts.

Mr Hatfield said that many young people were downcast by having doubts raised about the validity of their results. 'It must have been tremendously disappointing to those of them who thought they had achieved what they set out to do, to be told in a very short time that there was some lack of confidence in what they mean. We must all reassure youngsters that the examining boards know what they are about. Bearing in mind a few lapses, the results are accurate and right and valid.'

Kathleen Tattersall, chief executive of the Northern Examinations Assessment Board, said that the joint council should respond 'positively and vigorously' to the HMI report.