Urgent hearing is ordered over GCSEs court challenge

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A JUDGE has ordered an urgent hearing of a legal challenge over this summer’s GCSE English marking controversy.

An alliance of pupils, schools and councils including 11 from Yorkshire have mounted a bid for a judicial review at London’s High Court.

The order for expedition was made by Mr Justice Cranston. Almost 400 individual cases are currently involved in the mass challenge.

A two-day court hearing is expected to be fixed for the near future.

Leeds City Council and its executive member for children’s services, Coun Judith Blake, have played a leading role in calling for a judicial review.

The alliance recently announced that it had served court documents on England’s exams regulator, Ofqual, as well as the AQA and Edexcel awarding bodies.

It is challenging a decision by the exam boards to raise the boundary needed to obtain a grade C between January and June, as well as what it claims was a failure by Ofqual to address the situation.

The alliance claims that, as a result of the decisions, an estimated 10,000 pupils who took their English GCSE exam in June missed out on a C grade.

A statement of claim submitted to the High Court said: “The decisions have prejudiced the life chances of thousands of children.

“The immediate effects of the decisions include children being unable to progress in education, losing vocational opportunities and jobs and being unable to gain employment.

“The children affected by the decisions were entitled to be treated in a fair, consistent and rational manner by the defendants. They were not.

“The decisions are incompatible with the most elementary principles of fairness, rationality and good administration. They are unlawful and should be quashed.”

The alliance includes 167 pupils as well as 150 schools and 42 councils from around the country together with six professional bodies.

Ofqual responded to a pre-action letter sent by the alliance, vowing to “rigorously defend” its decisions over the exam results.

The row over the English exams broke out as national GCSE results were published in August.

Ofqual’s initial inquiry into the controversy concluded that January’s GCSE English assessments were “graded generously” but the June boundaries were properly set and pupils’ work properly graded.

The regulator insisted it would be inappropriate for either of the sets of exams to be regraded.

A separate report published last week warned that teenagers have been let down by an exams system that is abused by teachers who are under intense pressure to achieve good grades.

Teachers in some of England’s secondary schools were guilty of “significantly” over-marking pupils’ GCSE English work this summer in order to boost results, according to chief regulator Glenys Stacey.