Private school heads condemn exam marking

BBC News, 05.10.15, the heads of leading independent schools say the exam-marking system for GCSEs and A-levels is "not fit for purpose". HMC Chairman, Chris King, headmaster of Leicester Grammar School to tell the 2015 HMC Annual Conference of leading independent school Heads.

Chairman Chris King will tell the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference "urgent reform" is needed to improve the reliability of exam grades.

Last year more than 400,000 exam papers were challenged, with more than 77,000 grades being changed.

The joint exam boards body says markers are doing a "fantastic job".

But Mr King says: "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," he will tell the HMC's annual conference at St Andrews in Fife.


Mr King, head teacher of Leicester Grammar School, says marking remains a "cottage industry" that is unable to cope with the scale and stresses of the modern exam system.

Pupils can receive "frankly unbelievable marks or grades", he says, which can mean missing out on university places.

And even if grades are improved on appeal, he says that it can be too late to take up university places, which will have already been allocated to someone else.

The most recent figures, from 2014, show that inquiries about exam grades rose year-on-year by 48%, with a 42% increase in the number having their grades changed.

Mr King will say that the numbers of grades being changed is "shocking" and he says that if 6% of examiners are rated as "inadequate" by regulators, that "vast numbers" of marks could be affected.

But he says that there could be an even wider problem, as state schools might lack the funds to pursue challenges against a "byzantine" inquiry system.

The HMC says there needs to be more consistency across different subjects and exam boards and a bigger workforce of better-trained markers.

The independent school heads also want a more transparent process for appeals.

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