For release 9.30am, 10.12.15 

The following is a statement from HMC on further increases in appeals and exam re-grades announced today, plus notes on Ofqual’s proposed reform to the appeals system and rules on how exam boards set grade boundaries.


Chris King, Chair of HMC and Headmaster of Leicester Grammar School, said:

"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.

“The implications for pupils are grave - for some it has meant they have wrongly missed out on a place at their preferred Sixth Form, FE College or University of choice.

“Worryingly, 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. That is why HMC is working with them and trying to help improve exam setting and marking for all pupils.

“As everyone knows, Ofqual is wrestling with a major reform programme to GCSEs and A levels.  Back in 2012, HMC was concerned that the new qualifications would be ‘houses built on sand’ if marking and grading did not become more reliable in the meantime. Three years on, the figures released today reflect a continuing deterioration of confidence.

“If those responsible were marked themselves it would be a "Must do better."

Other points

  • HMC agrees with Ofqual’s Chief Regulator, Glenys Stacey, that the increased volume of Enquiries About Results and re-grades ‘reflects teachers’ increasing lack of confidence in marking and the current appeals system’.
  • We do not agree that confidence will increase if, as Ofqual proposes, there is no change to the rules for how boards set grade boundaries.  Several poorly set qualifications over the past five years or more have shown that a bizarre situation exists in which examiners and boards can follow the Ofqual rule-book and then hand down a large number of grades in which schools can have no confidence.
    • Examples of this are GCSE English Language and English Literature, 2011 and 2012; AQA GSCE drama, 2011 and 2012; OCR A level History in 2012 and 2013, MFL A level in German, French and Spanish, 2009-15.
  • We disagree with Ofqual’s assertion that these increasing volumes are ‘not about quality of marking’.  Clearly, 90,650 re-grades in 2015 shows that, until challenged, the results handed down are not a reliable reflection by exam boards of candidates’ work in examinations.
  • On fairness, we are concerned that the new high of 90,650 re-grades does not give an accurate picture of the extent of the unreliability. Ofqual says that its proposals will increase fairness.  However, a major problem remains – the very uneven ability of schools and colleges as a whole to lodge the full number of accurate appeals needed to ensure every candidate has an equally fair chance of an unreliable grade being changed.
  • For this reason HMC is working with other heads associations to increase awareness of the precise circumstances in which such unreliability arises (including glaring disparity between a subject teacher’s knowledge of their exam candidates and the results handed down by a board) and to champion the greater involvement of teachers in marking so that, armed with the full understanding of how examining works, they can press their school to lodge the right number of accurate enquiries about results.

For further information and interviews with head teachers, please contact HMC External Relations Director Sue Bishop on 07787 294808 [email protected]. If she is unavailable please contact Heidi Salmons on 01858 461953 [email protected]