A-level marking ‘so bad you can’t believe grades’

The Times, 05.10.15, exams are marked so poorly that many teenagers are given “unbelievable” grades and some unfairly miss a place at their chosen university, a head teachers’ leader has claimed. HMC Chairman Chris King, headmaster of Leicester Grammar School will tell the 2015 HMC Annual Conference of leading independent school Heads today.

Christopher King, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference of leading private schools, called for greater pressure on exam boards to set better exams and mark them more accurately.

Examiners, who are often teachers marking scripts towards the end of term, should be better paid as part of sweeping reform to the exams system, he said. They are typically paid between £1 and £5 per script, depending on the subject and exam board.

Mr King, headmaster of Leicester Grammar School, an independent day school, will attack standards of A-level and GCSE marking at HMC’s annual conference today in St Andrews, Fife.

He is expected to say: “The current situation is untenable. We are facing a perfect storm, of both decreasing public confidence and increasing pressure in the system, as the greater emphasis on end-of-year exams creates even more work for examiners over the summer.”

Last summer 77,400 A-level and GCSE grades were changed after they were challenged by schools, up from 54,400 the previous year.

Although this represents less than 1 per cent of all grades awarded and 18.7 per cent of all grades challenged, Mr King said it was likely to be an underestimate because many schools were reluctant to appeal against grades.

Mr King will argue that the complexity of the process deters some schools from registering appeals. He will also criticise university admissions tutors for refusing to hold university places open while an applicant awaits the outcome of an appeal. “We know of cases where, after re-marks come through, pupils are confirmed as having exceeded the offer of their first-choice university yet have nevertheless been told, inexplicably, that they no longer have a place for that year.”

Last summer the OCR exam board almost missed the deadline for issuing A-level grades because of a shortage of examiners. It is looking to recruit English-speaking examiners abroad.

Michael Turner, the director-general of the Joint Council for Qualifications, said: “Our examination system relies upon the 50,000 teachers who each year mark over 15 million papers . . . Where mistakes do happen, in what is a large and complex system, there are robust processes to correct them as soon as possible, and often within days.”

Read the full article ©The Times