Inquiry call in GCSE row amid ‘teachers abusing system’ claim

A LEADING councillor has called for an independent inquiry into the English GCSE grading row after Ofqual claimed some teachers were abusing the marking system.

Coun Judith Blake, Leeds City Council’s executive member for Children’s Services, rejected suggestion schools were to blame for the controversy surrounding the summer’s exams which saw grade boundaries moved between January and June.

There has been a national outcry after it emerged that thousands of students received a D grade in the summer when the same work would have earned a C had it been assessed earlier in the year.

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Ofqual’s chief regulator, Glenys Stacey, laid blame for the debacle on intense pressure on schools to reach certain targets, which led to over-marking, as well as poorly designed exams and too much emphasis on work marked by teachers. She said teachers in some of England’s secondary schools had “significantly” over-marked pupils’ GCSE English work in order to boost results.

In a new report into the GCSE English fiasco published yesterday Ofqual said it was hard for teachers to maintain their integrity, when they believe others are abusing the system.

Head teachers have said tens of thousands of teenagers received lower GCSE English grades than expected this year after exam boards moved the grade boundaries between January and June. An initial report by Ofqual concluded some of January’s assessments were “graded generously” but the June boundaries were properly set and candidates’ work properly graded.

The regulator published its second report yesterday, looking at the reasons behind the changes in results.

The new English GCSEs, which were awarded for the first time this year, were split up into modules, with pupils sitting written exam papers and “controlled assessment” – coursework completed under strict classroom supervision.

It was down to schools to decide when pupils submitted their controlled assessment work and sat exams. Ofqual’s report claims many used the marks pupils received in their first exams and the January grade boundaries to work out what score a pupil would need in their controlled assessment and marked it accordingly.

Most controlled assessment work was submitted in the summer, and examiners saw evidence of over-marking. As a result, grade boundaries were raised to take account of this, and this led to some students getting lower grades than expected.

Leeds City Council has been at the forefront of a national legal challenge to get June’s English GCSE papers regraded with the boundaries used in January through a judicial review.

Coun Blake said: “The latest report from Ofqual vindicates the stance we have taken in calling for the exams to be regraded and for there to be an independent inquiry

“As far as I am concerned Ofqual is now thoroughly discredited and has alienated itself from the entire education community. Coursework marking is supposed to be moderated.

“If the marking was going wrong on such a big scale why was this not spotted by the moderation system used by exam boards and regulated by Ofqual?

“Ofqual’s report shows they cannot be allowed to investigate themselves. They are too involved in this. It is time for the Government to intervene and take responsibility for this complete and utter shambles.”

Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was “outrageous” to suggest that teachers and schools were to blame, adding that Ofqual was responsible for ensuring “fairness and accuracy” in the system.