More than 90,000 exam grades changed

BBC News, 10.12.15, more than 90,000 GCSE and A-level results were changed after challenges to grades awarded this summer - the highest on record and an increase of 17% compared with last year. HMC Chairman Chris King, Headmaster of Leicester Grammar School is quoted.

Exam regulator Ofqual says there were more than 572,000 queries over grades - an increase of 27%.

Head teachers have complained about the quality of marking and the damaging impact of incorrect grades.

Ofqual is launching a consultation to overhaul the appeals system.

The annual figures from Ofqual show another significant increase in exam papers sent back for being re-marking and grades changed at both A-level and GCSE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Appeals against results meant that 62,000 grades were changed at GCSE and 28,500 at A-level.

It means that the number of grades changed after re-marking has almost doubled in three years. In 99% of cases, it was an upwards change.

A-level and GCSE grades challenged
Grades challenged Grades changed
2010 189,950 34,800
2011 233,350 38,450
2012 291,100 46,250
2013 329,750 54,400
2014 414,850 77,400
2015 572,350 90,650


"Every child sitting an exam deserves to trust that their paper will be marked accurately. So it is very disappointing to see yet another huge upsurge in false GCSE and A level grades," said Chris King, chair of the Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference group of independent schools.

"The implications for pupils are grave - for some it has meant they have wrongly missed out on a place at their preferred sixth form, further education college or university of choice."

But Mr King said the "true statistics are likely to be even higher, as we know many state schools do not have the time and resources to put in lengthy, complicated and expensive appeals".

There have been warnings from head teachers' leaders that because of the cost of re-marking, fewer appeals are likely from state schools.

Figures from the OCR exam board published by the BBC earlier this year showed that independent school exam centres accounted for a disproportionate number of inquiries.

But the analysis from Ofqual does not provide an official breakdown of state and independent school challenges to grades - or how much the process costs schools and parents.

Exam boards refund the re-marking fee if an exam is changed - but not if the grade remains the same, with fees costing between about £20 and £60 per paper.

This year's figures show more than 480,000 grades were not changed, representing millions of pounds of expense.

The most common result challenged at GCSE was a D grade - reflecting the importance of getting across the C grade threshold. At A-level, the most challenges were for B grades, suggesting it could relate to university applications.

The Joint Council for Qualifications, representing exam boards, said only a small proportion of exam grades had been found to need changing, in a system with 50,000 markers and 15 million individual scripts.

"As data published today by Ofqual shows, each year over 8 million GCSE and A level grades are awarded to a high level of accuracy. Although the number of enquiries about results increased in 2015, the proportion of all grades changed was 1.1%," said the JCQ's director general Michael Turner.

Ofqual has launched a consultation into ways of improving the process of querying results.

It will address concerns such as a "lack of transparency in the system", the time taken to process appeals and the cost to schools and candidates.

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