Working together for better public examinations – HMC statement


HMC is releasing the following statement summarising work that has been done in parallel with Ofqual since 2012 to address the significant concerns of our Members about the quality of marking and the appeals process in England.

This engagement has informed a number of Ofqual-led initiatives in this area. The expected result is improvements in the way exam boards approach marking and administer the appeals process. This is something from which all candidates sitting GCSEs and A levels stand to benefit.

Peter Hamilton, Chair of the HMC Academic Policy sub-committee and Headmaster of Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys' School, said:

‘HMC is pleased that many of the concerns about marking raised by Heads in our schools since 2012 have been the subject of sustained enquiry by Ofqual and are now resulting in a range of planned actions.

‘Key to creating fairer and more accurate exam marking are proposals for a shake-up of the entire appeals process – an aspect of exam regulation which schools of all kinds have been unhappy about for many years’.  

Glenys Stacey, Chief Regulator at Ofqual said:

‘Our engagement in this particular area has been aimed at addressing issues identified in our Quality of Marking in GCSEs and A levels report, published in February 2014.

We have welcomed formal and informal discussion in this area with a range of stakeholders, and have particularly valued the contribution of HMC. We will soon be launching a consultation on proposed changes to the appeal system in England.’

Summary of actions and progress since 2012

2012. In the autumn of 2012 HMC published a critique of the operation of marking, grading and appeals.

2013. In early 2013 Ofqual commenced analysis of problems concerning the quality of marking and grading of examinations, as well as the process of enquiries and appeals after results. Since the spring of 2013 Ofqual has worked with HMC to pinpoint a range of problems across GCSE and A level subjects and ways of solving them. A combination of the technical and regulatory expertise of Ofqual and the practice-based expertise of HMC schools has made significant progress possible. By pooling the specific skills and knowledge base of the two organisations, the key aim has been to achieve fairer and more trustworthy results for all examination candidates. Ofqual’s work has comprised a range of technical changes and regulatory actions under two complementary headings: quality of marking; and the adequacy of the appeals process.

2014. During 2014 important preliminary work by Ofqual relevant to the concerns raised by HMC was completed on:

  • the characteristics of the marker workforce (published February 2014)
  • weaknesses in current marking arrangements (published February 2014)
  • faults in the design of modern languages examination papers (published September 2014)
  • annual review of summer marking and awarding, summer 2014 (published December 2014)

2015-2017. By the beginning of 2015 the areas identified as priorities by both organisations, with implementation dates set by Ofqual, were:

  • improved marking and improved quality control of marking at the exam boards (in stages from summer 2015, with key metrics in place for summer 2017)
  • reforms to question-setting in modern languages examination papers to secure fairer marking at grades A and A* (from summer 2015)
  • consultation about proposals for the reform of:
  1. Enquiries about Results procedures
  2. the formal Appeals process
  3. the Ofqual Code of Practice as this relates to (i) and (ii) (consultation announcement confirmed by Ofqual at the HMC Conference in October 2015)
  • reforms to Enquiries about Results and appeals (from summer 2016)

Ofqual and HMC expect to continue working in parallel on improvements to the fairness and reliability of public examinations.