Pupils penalised by poor marking, say head teachers

In an article in the Telegraph, 16/02/13, HMC Chairman and High Master of The Manchester Grammar School, Dr Chris Ray warms that generations of pupils are being penalised by “unreliable” marking.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, must take “personal responsibility” for tackling poor-quality marking to prevent pupils being awarded the wrong grades, they say.

In a letter in The Daily Telegraph today Christopher Ray, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), which represents 250 leading private schools, said “the dice are loaded heavily against” teenagers who want to challenge their grades.

Thousands of AS-level and A-level papers are re-marked on appeal because teachers and pupils believe examiners have made mistakes, such as failing to add up marks correctly or apply the mark scheme fairly.

Dr Ray said a code of practice overseen by the examinations regulator, Ofqual, made challenging exam grades on the basis of poor-quality marking “nigh impossible”.

The letter says: “Until Ofqual takes our concerns seriously, by working with us and others to rewrite the code, generations of pupils will continue to be penalised by a system which puts adherence to process above the quality of marking.”

Exam boards often “hide behind” the rules that focus on whether examiners have followed the right processes, meaning schools struggle to overturn grades awarded by incompetent examiners.

“Although the Secretary of State for Education has welcomed the serious concerns expressed by HMC and others about the unreliability of our public examinations, he has neatly deflected these anxieties, saying they are a matter for Ofqual,” Dr Ray said.

Dr Ray, High Master of Manchester Grammar School, called for an independent review of Ofqual’s code, which he said weighted the system in the favour of exam boards rather than pupils.

The watchdog said it would start an internal review and consult the public on any changes to the code.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We agree with HMC that there are issues with marking and quality control. Ofqual has committed to review GCSE and A-level marking to ensure the system is accurate and fair for pupils.”

By Tim Ross, The Telegraph. Click here to read the article © The Telegraph.