A NORTH-EAST MP has criticised the exam watchdog for suggesting schools in her constituency may have over-estimated the GCSE grades their pupils were expected to receive.

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman wrote to Ofqual last month, asking what they they intended to do to help 102 local GCSE students who missed out on the grades they expected.

In her letter, Mrs Chapman argued that it was unfair that youngsters who had been predicted to receive a grade C pass in English GCSE this summer had been given a D fail because the marking was harder than expected.

Four Darlington schools that had AQA as their English examining board – Hurworth Academy, Haughton Academy, Longfield Sports Academy and St Aidan’s Academy – all recorded results lower than predicted, because of tougher-than-expected marking.

But in a reply from Ofqual, the watchdog’s chief regulator, Glenys Stacey, said: “We have found that schools frequently over-predict and generally they did so far more than usual for these new qualifications. It is not the only factor at play by any means, but it is one factor that we are looking into.”

Ms Stacey said Ofqual was now looking in detail at some of the schools and colleges with the greatest variances as part of a continuing investigation into concerns over grade boundaries for GCSE English this summer.

Mrs Chapman said Ofqual’s explanation what had happened was “simply not good enough”.

The MP added: “I haven’t shared Ofqual’s comments about overpredicting with the schools but I think it will be like lighting the blue touch paper, because I know they take their predicting very seriously.”

Mrs Chapman said she was sure that the allegation of over-estimation “will be robustly defended” by headteachers.

The MP said the attitude of the Welsh Government, which ordered that youngsters adversely affected should have their exams regraded, “contrasts sharply with the high-handed attitude we have seen from the Government in Westminster”.

􀁧 A legal challenge over the GCSE English fiasco is to be submitted to the High Court in the next week, it was announced yesterday.

The action is being brought by an alliance of pupils, schools, councils and professional bodies, angry at decisions which meant thousands of teenagers missed out on C grades.