Jump in grade changes at GCSE and A-level, figures show

The Telegraph, 24.12.15, the number of grades changed because of clerical error has doubled from 814 to 1604, the figures revealed, as exam boards cited "human error" and IT glitches as the cause of the mistakes. HMC's General Secretary, Dr William Richardson is quoted.

The number of grades changed because of clerical error has doubled from 814 to 1604, the figures revealed, as exam boards cited "human error" and IT glitches as the cause of the mistakes.

The figures were published as leading heads renewed their concerns over the 'deterioration' of the exam system.

Figures released by Ofqual, the exam regulator, also showed a doubling in the numbers of security breaches from 20 in 2014 to 44 this summer. The breaches included the theft of two vans that were delivering exam papers.

Where necessary, the papers that were missing were replaced to reduce the risk of unfairness, the regulator added.

The data showed the number of whistleblowing allegations rise from 18 to 28 this year. Of those 28 allegations, 15 related to school and college malpractice in exams, 20 related to school and college malpractice in controlled assessments, Ofqual said.

The new data triggered calls from leading headteachers to improve the exam system, which they believe “continues to deteriorate”.

However, the number of question paper errors in exams declined this year. The total number of questions that were impossible to answer increased by one but the number of errors that may cause unintentional difficulties for students when trying to answer a question dropped from 15 to two and issues around grammar or minor mistakes halved from 20 to 10.

The errors were a result of "human error" and IT glitches.

Ofqual said: “With 2.1 million candidates, over 1,700 exams, and examiners marking 22 million scripts it is inevitable that some issues will arise and it is important that lessons are learned.”

However, the fresh data led to a group of leading private school heads to raise concerns about the exam system.

William Richardson, general secretary of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), said: "Heads’ and teachers’ confidence in exam marking and grading continues to deteriorate and it is disturbing to note in today’s report that some of this increase was the result of a 97 per cent rise in processing errors at the boards".

Official figures published earlier this month showed a record 90,000 GCSE and A-level results were changed following challenges to grades given to pupils this summer – the highest on record and a jump of 17 per cent from a year earlier.

Ofqual said there were over 572,000 queries over grades - which represents a 27 per cent rise – fuelled by teachers’ “anxiety” over an increase in the number of exams.

Mr Richardson added: "Re-grades on appeal across GCSE and A level in 2015 rose by a very concerning 17 per cent compared to 2014, with at least 90,650 candidates are being handed down false results by exam boards on results day.

"These figures represent one re-issued and corrected exam certificate for each of the seats inside Wembley stadium.

“That is a huge number of needlessly disappointed and upset students, some of whom will have missed out on places at their chosen further education college or university.”

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