Exam boards failing duty to pupils

In a letter to The Sunday Times 02/06/13, the heads of HMC and GSA schools say they have a duty to make pupils and parents aware that “problems in the marking and grading of public exams” are widespread across subjects and exam boards.

LAST summer there was a national outcry when thousands of pupils failed to receive the grades they were expecting in GCSE English. Our colleagues in the maintained sector took legal action that led to the conclusion that, although what had happened was unfair, it was not unlawful.

As heads of leading independent schools, we believe we have a duty to make the public aware at this time that problems in the marking and grading of public exams do not affect only one subject, or one level of exam, or schools belonging to a particular sector.

For several years we have been worried about the robustness of the “examinations industry” in England. We have concerns about erratic examiners and unexplained swings in results. There are also concerns that it is easier to get top grades with some boards than others.

Every year our staff oversee the submission of appeals against inaccurate marking. Sometimes as many as 100 papers from a single school are upgraded on appeal. This indicates an unacceptable level of inaccuracy. Sometimes faults with the exam system have cost able pupils their university place.

As the exam season starts, we want to make it clear on behalf of all those taking public examinations that we are not convinced that the problems that affect the exam system have been addressed with sufficient speed, let alone resolved.

Andrew Grant, St Albans School
Louise Simpson, Bromley High School
Tony Little, Eton College
Emma McKendrick, Downe House School 
Tim Hands, Magdalen College School
Jonathan Leigh, Marlborough College
Christopher Ray, The Manchester Grammar School
Felicia Kirk, St Mary’s Calne
Bernard Trafford, Royal Grammar School Newcastle 
Kenneth Durham, University College School 
Richard Harman, Uppingham School
Cynthia Hall, Wycombe Abbey School
Anthony Seldon, Wellington College

Click here to read the letter.