Schools to have second chance to challenge GCSE and A-level results

30 June 2017
Posted by Heidi Salmons

TES, 29.06.17 Ofqual announces new right to appeal results after initial exam board review, if schools continue to have concerns about errors in marking or moderation. Peter Hamilton, chair of HMC’s Academic Policy Committee and Head of Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School is quoted.

School in England are to have a second chance to challenge GCSE, AS and A-level results if they have concerns about marking or moderation errors, Ofqual has announced.

Starting this summer, those who continue to have concerns about errors in AS and A levels or project qualifications after the exam board has conducted its first review will be able to ask the boards to look again.

The move by the exam’s watchdog follows the evaluation of a pilot last summer involving 3 A levels in geography, religious studies, and physics.

The results of the pilot, which are published today, found that this additional grounds of appeal provided a better opportunity for errors in marking to be identified and corrected. Of the 39 appeal cases received under the new grounds in the pilot, nine (23 per cent) resulted in a grade change.

The opportunity to appeal on the grounds of marking or moderation errors will be extended to GCSEs in English language, English literature and maths in 2018, and to all remaining GCSE subjects in 2019.

Ofqual said the phasing of the opportunity to appeal would “give exam boards the time needed to appropriately build their capacity to manage the likely increase in appeal requests”.

'Fairer for all students'

Commenting on today’s announcement, chief regulator Sally Collier said: “We require exam boards to have procedures in place to make sure exam papers are marked accurately in the first place.

“However, it’s important that schools, students and teachers can challenge results if they have concerns.

“We’ve taken steps over the past couple of years to make the systems they use to do this clearer, more consistent, and fairer for all students. Today’s announcement means that everybody can have even more confidence that if a marking or moderation error has been made, it will be corrected."

Peter Hamilton, chair of HMC’s academic policy committee and head of Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, said: “Teachers have long been infuriated by the dysfunctional processes for challenging grades and providing a new way to question marking accuracy is a welcome additional security measure. It is not enough, however, to  make the exam marking system safe."

He added: "A major overhaul of how grades are awarded is still necessary to ensure all children can rely on the exam results which are so important to their life chances."

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT heads' union, said: "Should mistakes occur then those affected rightly expect them to be put right swiftly and with the minimum of fuss.

"We welcome Ofqual revisiting this issue and their announcement to strengthen appeal arrangements. It is critical that these changes are widely publicised so that no mistake goes unchallenged, irrespective of background or circumstance of the pupils impacted – the importance of making the grade on future life choices is too great to leave to chance.”

The new right to appeal in cases of alleged marking errors augments an existing right for schools to appeal results on the grounds that an exam board has not followed its own procedures.

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