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Exams ruling sparks outrage
SCHOOLS in the region last night reacted angrily after exams watchdog Ofqual rejected claims that GCSE English papers were marked too harshly this summer.
The regulator said January’s English papers were graded generously, but found that the June grade boundaries were properly set and pupils’ work properly graded.
Ofqual offered early resits to students, but headteachers immediately criticised the findings, with some warning they could still mount a legal challenge over the results, which saw thousands of youngsters narrowly miss out on a C grade pass.
Jackie Gent, headteacher at Bishop Barrington School, in Bishop Auckland , where 12 pupils missed a C grade by small margins, described Ofqual’s report as “utterly appalling”.
She said: “These children had worked so hard, with some facing particularly challenging personal circumstances, and they deserved so much better.
“As Bishop Barrington is an 11 to 16 school, they were very worried about their acceptance onto further education courses.
“Ofqual’s offer of an opportunity for resit does not address the inequality of the same cohort of year 11 pupils being treated differently, simply because of the timing of the submission of a controlled assessment.”
She said that resits were impractical in many 11-16 schools because young people had now left.
The Reverend Canon Sheila Bamber, chairwoman of the governors of St Aidan’s Church of England Academy in Darlington, where about 50 youngsters unexpectedly received D rather than C grades in English, said: “This does little to reconcile the injustice experienced by those students affected.
“We continue to be very concerned about the lack of transparency in a system where such variance can occur from one exam sitting to another.
“The only hopeful news in the Ofqual statement is that they wish to engage with the education community at large to see how this can be avoided in future.
“It is just a shame that this was not done before this summer and then maybe we could have avoided having thousands of young people’s hopes for the future dashed.”
Ofqual came under fire from schools last week when heads and senior staff accused exam boards of “moving the goalposts” and marking this summer’s GCSE English exam more harshly than in January.
Teaching unions claimed that up to 65,000 young people who had been predicted to achieve C grade passes were given D grade fails.
In a statement last night, Ofqual concluded that the overall grades for this summer’s GCSE English exam were correct – but conceded that the same exam papers marked in January this year were “graded generously”.
Ofqual insisted that when exam boards came to set grade boundaries in June they were “better equipped”
to make judgements as there was more information available due to the larger group of students taking the assessment.
Chief regulator Glenys Stacy said: “The issue is not the June, but the January boundaries.
“Again, examiners used their best judgement in setting these boundaries, but they had less data and information to work with.
“Most candidates were not sitting at the time, they were waiting for June, and because they were new qualifications, examiners could not rely so much on direct comparisons with the past.
“As a result, those grade boundaries were set generously.”
The Association of School and College Leaders warned it could still begin a legal challenge against grade boundary changes on the grounds that it had disadvantaged certain groups of students.
General secretary Brian Lightman said: “We are actively considering what legal challenge would be a way of dealing with this, although we would much prefer to solve this through other means.
“What we are seeking to do here is get justice for young people who have been badly affected by systemic failures that are not of their making.”
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