Leading Bolton headteacher criticises exam overhaul

Bolton News, 20.03.16, plans to overhaul the exam appeals system will not address the real issue of the wrong grades being awarded in the first place according to a leading headteacher. HMC member Philip Britton, head of leading independent Bolton School Boys' Division is quoted.

Philip Britton, head of Bolton School Boys' Division, said the proposals put forward were the wrong solution and "would certainly make things worse".

Latest figures for remarked papers show that 16 per cent of grades were changed nationally on appeal.

At Bolton School that figure stood at 15 per cent, with Mr Britton saying that nearly one in six grades wrong is too many.

Now Ofqual's plans to reform appeals have been criticised by the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, which represents leading private schools.

Mr Britton said: "Faced with huge pressure from schools to alter the appeals system, what is proposed will certainly make things worse.

"It will be more difficult to get marks changed when they are wrong and it does not deal with the problem that so many candidates need to appeal to get the mark they should have got in the first place, which means that those who don’t appeal miss out.

"There are also worrying aspects that imply the fees for appeals may rise and the timescales get longer, which is bad for pupils.

"The quality of marking in exams is a huge issue for education nationally."

He added: "It is good it is being discussed, but this is the wrong answer.

"Making examining more attractive to more teachers is the way to systemic improvement, alongside stability in the system rather than ceaseless change."

A consultation published by the exams regulator last year proposed that exam marks should only be changed when there had been a mistake in applying the mark scheme, or in counting the marks.

If there was a difference in opinion on how many marks a paper should be awarded — for example between the original examiner and someone looking at the paper when it was sent back for checking — then the original mark should stand if considered reasonable.

Other reforms include removing a Code of Practice which contains the existing rules for reviews of marking.

Julie Swan, Ofqual's acting executive director for general qualifications, said: "Our proposals were put together by talking to teachers, schools and others who have expressed concerns about the existing system."

"The concept that students are either given a 'right mark' or a 'wrong mark' is a misunderstanding — often more than one mark can be a fair mark for a script."

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