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Ofqual figures show spike in exam appeals

Exam regulator reveals over 90,000 grades were changed in 2015, almost triple the number in 2010

Posted by Stephanie Broad | December 10, 2015 | People, policy, politics

Newly-released statistics from Ofqual show a sharp increase in enquiries from schools regarding their GCSE and A-level results.

The number of individual enquiries rose by 27%, from 451,000 last summer, to 572,350 in summer 2015.

In total, 90,650 qualification grades were changed, representing 17.9% of all grades challenged

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, says: “The increase in enquiries from schools following the publication of exam marks is a concern. Over the last few years, confidence in the exam system has been shaken, and we have continually highlighted the need to build capacity within the system.

“There is an inherent unfairness in the need to challenge grades so often; schools with the least capacity will find it hardest to launch these challenges. We need a system that gets more exam grades right first time, not one that needs to be continually challenged.

Heads have complained about exam marking quality and how incorrect grades impact the school. Ofqual is set to launch a consultation on the appeals system. 

Russell Hobby continues: “We welcome the announcement of a consultation on plans to review the appeals system. School leaders will welcome an update to the current arrangements, and we look forward to working constructively on the proposals. Even with a more robust system there will inevitably be mistakes and challenges. The process for handling these should be transparent, simple and fair.' 

Fees for re-marking can add up to expensive amounts, potentially creating a struggle for state schools with limited budgets. Figures reported by the BBC in October highlighted that independent schools accounted for 23% of grade enquiries.  However, AQA insisted that fees are only charged when there is “nothing wrong with the original marking”.

Chris King, Chair of HMC and Headmaster of Leicester Grammar School, highlighted the impact that grading has on pupils’ futures: '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.'    

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