COUNCILS in Yorkshire are considering mounting legal action over the marking of this year’s English exams after schools suffered an unexpected slump in grades.
A major row has broken out over claims GCSE English papers were marked too harshly in an attempt to control grade inflation.
Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg last night called for an inquiry into the claims to restore confidence in the exam system.
It comes as the number of A* to C GCSEs fell slightly for the first time ever yesterday.
Education bosses in Leeds and Bradford indicated that they were considering a legal challenge last night.
Leeds Council’s executive member for children’s services, Coun Judith Blake, launched a strong attack on the AQA exam board for the “fiasco”, but AQA insisted all exam boards had moved their grade boundaries.
She said the move could result in some students missing out on a place in college or push schools below the Government’s minimum GCSE pass rate targets.
Coun Ralph Berry, Bradford Council’s executive member for schools, said he expected other education authorities in Yorkshire to take action as well.
Boston Spa School’s head teacher, Christopher Walsh, said 70 per cent of its English exams normally resulted in A* to C passes but this had fallen to 54 per cent this year. He believes some pupils who achieved a D in English this summer would have received a B or a C had their work been submitted in January.
“We are taking legal advice as the exam boards have a responsibility to ensure that a pupil is not disadvantaged over when they take their exam,” Mr Walsh added.
Coun Blake described the AQA grade changes as unfair and said: “I am outraged that the lives of young people are being played around with in this way.
“It is my understanding that all examination boards are required to ensure that they are fair to all pupils and they are not advantaged or disadvantaged simply because their work is submitted to the board at different times of the year.
“We do not feel this basic principle of fairness has been adhered to in this case.”
An AQA spokeswoman said all the exam boards raised their grade boundaries for GCSE English this year in order to maintain standards.
She said: “Students often take their units for a qualification in different exam series. We take account of how students have performed in each exam series when we set grade boundaries, in order to ensure that standards are maintained.
“While grade boundaries can therefore vary between exam series, students can be confident the grade they get for an overall qualification one year would be the same the next.
“When work is marked internally by a school or college, as in the case of controlled assessment, we review the standard of work to ensure that it is consistent across the country. Our grade boundaries are all approved, and supported, by our regulator Ofqual.”
She added that any school with concerns should contact AQA.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, urged an investigation and accused the Government of yearly “tinkering”.
He said: “What appears to have happened is that, halfway through the year, it was decided that too many students were going to get a C grade in English and the grade boundaries of the exam were pushed up very substantially.”
This year 63.9 per cent of entries got at least a C in English Language, compared with 65.4 per cent last year while in English Literature, 76.3 per cent were awarded A* to C, compared with 78.4 per cent in 2011. Education Secretary Michael Gove said changes in grades were independent judgments made by exam boards free from political pressure.
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Weather for Yorkshire
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 14 C
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