Court papers served in GCSE grading fiasco

Legal action has begun over this year's GCSE fiasco
Legal action has begun over this year's GCSE fiasco
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LEGAL action over this summer’s GCSE English grades row has been launched by an alliance of pupils, schools and councils.

Papers have been served on England’s exams regulator Ofqual, as well as the AQA and Edexcel awarding bodies, a national alliance announced yesterday.

The group which has been led by Leeds Council and includes ten other authorities and more than 20 schools from the region is challenging a decision by the exam boards to raise the boundary needed to get a grade C between January and June.

Its call for a judicial review is also challenging 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 unfairly.

The statement of claim submitted to the High Court says: “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 including Barnsley, Bradford, Calderdale, Doncaster, Hull, Leeds, Kirklees, Rotherham, Sheffield, Wakefield and York as well as six professional bodies.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said: “The alliance has reviewed the evidence carefully and we remain convinced that thousands of young people were unfairly downgraded in June in order to compensate for mistakes made earlier in the year.

“The only fair course of action for these students is to regrade the papers. While many of them will have moved on to college courses or other options, their grades will remain with them for years to come and that is unjust.

“We are not happy about issuing court proceedings, but Ofqual and the awarding bodies have left us with no other alternative.”

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said: “This exam shambles has gone on far too long. It is completely unacceptable that those representing teachers, parents and pupils have to resort to the courts to get fair GCSE grades.”

Last month Ofqual responded to a pre-action letter sent by the alliance, vowing to “rigorously defend” its decisions over this summer’s GCSE English results.

The row over the English exams broke out as GCSE results were published in August showing grades had fallen for the first time.

Ofqual conducted an inquiry which concluded that January’s GCSE English assessments were “graded generously” but the June boundaries were properly set and candidates’ work properly graded.

The regulator insisted it would be inappropriate for either of the sets of exams to be regraded. Instead, students will be given an extra chance to resit the GCSE in November. However in Wales, education minister Leighton Andrews ordered the WJEC exam board to regrade Welsh students’ English papers.

The papers were served yesterday as another Yorkshire school confirmed it planned to join the legal challenge. Breffni Martin, the head teacher of Fir Vale School, in Sheffield, said they aimed to “remove a terrible injustice.”

Ms Martin said 26 pupils had missed out on C grades as a result of the marking system changing while the school fell below the target of getting 40 per cent of pupils to achieve five A* to C grades including English and maths.

She said many of these students were not able to access the A-level courses and some missed out on apprenticeships and engineering courses because of the D grades.