Some 180 pupils are part of an alliance that has today started legal action against exam regulator Ofqual and exam bodies AQA and Edexcel. They want GCSE English exam papers taken in June this year regraded now in line with the papers taken by their fellow pupils in January this year. The pupils are joined in their legal action by 117 schools, 36 councils and 7 professional bodies from the length and breadth of England.
Jonathan Clarke, who sat his exam at St Matthew Academy in Blackheath, said: “I worked hard for a C grade in English and it has been taken away from me right at the end. That is just not fair. I am now having to redo the course with a different exam board over the next year at the same time as doing four A-levels.”
St Matthew Academy headteacher Michael Barry said: “Jonathan is one of 31 students from our school who has suffered in this way. He is a hard-working, conscientious student, getting 2 A stars, 4 As, 2Bs, 3Cs and then a D in English. It is obvious that something is very wrong here.”
The grade boundaries for the GCSE English foundation paper were changed for a C award by 10 marks between the January 2012 and June 2012 exams. This radical change of boundary is totally unprecedented.
In Lewisham 163 pupils have been left with D grades who, had they sat the exam in January, would have got a C. This is mirrored in every authority in the country.
A pre-action letter delivered to Ofqual, AQA and Edexcel today states: “It is inconceivable that two cohorts of students enrolled for the same course in the same academic year, who have undertaken the same work and invested the same effort, and who will be competing in future for the same opportunities, should be subjected to such radically different standards of assessment and award.”
Schools and students relied on the published January grade boundaries in making their preparations for the June exam. Because no specific, focused warning of a significant grade boundary change was made, schools and students were denied the opportunity to change their preparation.
Erica Pienaar, Executive Headteacher, Leathersellers’ Federation of Schools, said: “We understand that some grade adjustment goes on routinely, but schools are always informed about this and the adjustments are minor – one or two marks here or there. This year we were kept in the dark and at 10 marks the scale of the adjustment was huge.”
Brian Lightman, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This legal challenge is essentially about fairness. Young people only have one chance at a good education and it is absolutely wrong that 16 year olds this year are ending up paying for mistakes made by adults who should know better. This is about putting right the errors that were made by Ofqual and the awarding bodies in this year’s exams.”
Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: “The statistics are opaque but the moral issue is simple: a group of young people have been made to pay a devastating price for the mistakes of others. This must be rectified swiftly."
Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock said: “Our young people are paying for the bureaucratic bungling of others. Students performing at exactly the same level in January and June have been given different results – some have passed through the gateway into their next level of education or training, while others have had the door slammed shut in their face.”
A Pre-Action Letter written in accordance with the Pre-Action Protocol for Judicial Review was sent to Ofqual, AQA and Edexcel today giving them seven days in which to respond.
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Page Published: 21/09/2012