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Darlington school leads call for English GCSE inquiry
A NORTH-EAST school was last night at the centre of a major row about GCSE exam grades after senior staff accused the Government of “moving the goalposts” and wrecking the hopes of many pupils.
As hundreds of thousands of youngsters across the country celebrated their GCSE results, St Aidan’s Church of England Academy, in Darlington, said it is to challenge its English results amid allegations that they have been marked too harshly.
Instead of celebrating what were expected to be record GCSE results, senior staff at St Aidan’s have been consoling pupils who have missed out on passes in GCSE English by getting a D instead of an expected C.
St Aidan’s assistant principal Stephanie Francom said: “If the goalposts had not been moved for GCSE English, we would have expected an eight to nine per cent rise in our pass rates, putting us over 50 per cent for the first time.
“Last year, 44 per cent of our students achieved five Ato- C GCSE passes, including English and maths, but this year we are looking at a pass rate of 34 per cent, which is not acceptable and is being strongly contested.”
The academy was established in the Eastbourne area of Darlington five years ago to replace a failing state comprehensive.
Now housed in a £16m campus, the academy has seen results rise year on year.
While there were still success stories at St Aidan’s, yesterday’s results left about 40 per cent of the 116 teenager who took GCSEs at the academy this summer wondering whether they can continue with their studies or training after failing to get an expected pass in English. The school said a number of students had been awarded A grades in their English coursework and had ended up with a C.
Darlington MP Jenny Chapman said she would write to Education Secretary Michael Gove about the results.
Brian Lightman, from the Association of School and College Leaders, said the situation at St Aidan’s was repeated around the country.
He said: “What appears to have happened is that, halfway through the year, it was decided too many students were going to get a C grade in English and the grade boundaries of the exam were pushed up very substantially.”
Mr Gove said the reason some pupils have had poorer results than expected was partly down to a change in the system, which meant their exams had been split into units and modules this year.
He said the decision to change the grade boundaries was down to individual exam boards and was “fairly comparable”
with previous years.
Asked about concerns from English teachers that exams in their subject have been marked too harshly, he said: “Yes, the number of As has fallen, but the number of Bs has increased, the number of Cs has fallen and the number of Ds has increased.
“That is a result of the independent judgements made by exam boards entirely free from any political pressure.”
Nationally the proportion of GCSEs at C or above fell by 0.4 per cent – the first drop in the exam’s 24-year history.
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