Headteachers may launch a legal challenge over the grading of GCSE English after the exam regulator said this summer's results would not be re-graded.
Ofqual has released its initial report into this summer's English results.
While it found grade boundaries were higher in June than they were in January it said examiners had acted properly and set them using their best judgement.
Because of the strength of feeling over the June results the regulator also confirmed it would allow students to be given an extra chance to re-sit.
A leading headmistress said a "major rethink" of the qualification's content and structure is needed, adding that exams have become too accessible, with too many modules and structured questions.
Bernice McCabe, of the North London Collegiate School - which came second in a new league table of private schools' GCSE results - said:
Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg says the Ofqual report fails to deal with the "basic unfairness" and the offer of early re-sits "doesn't go far enough".
This is a summary of what the regulator has agreed:
- Revisiting the June grade boundaries would contradict our responsibility to maintain standards over time and make sure results are comparable year-on-year
- It would not be appropriate to revisit the January grade boundaries. That would mean lowering the grades of other students which would lead to further concerns over unfairness
- Each of the exam boards offering GCSE English and English Language will provide an exceptional, one off resit opportunity in November 2012
- Exam boards will review the advice and guidance they give to schools about GCSE English including its structure, how grade boundaries are set and how they should be used
- School and colleges who have submitted an Enquiry About Result (EAR) for a candidate due to concerns over grade boundaries can withdraw this and incur no cost if they no longer wish to pursue it. EARs do not look at grade boundaries
The Association of School and College Leaders says it is weighing up its legal options after Ofqual's decision.
Timeline of the GCSE English grades row
- 2010: New GCSE English syllabuses introduced with pupils sitting an exam and submitting two pieces of coursework, under classroom supervision.
- January 2012: First students begin English GCSE.
- June: Majority of students complete qualification.
- 23 August: Students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive their GCSEs. Proportion of GCSEs awarded at least a C falls for first time ever.
- 24 August: Head teachers urge Michael Gove to conduct an inquiry into this year's GCSEs.
- 25 August: Exams regular Ofqual says it'll look at grades again.
- 28 August: Association of School and College Leaders calls for students marked down in June to have grades reissued.
- 31 August: Ofqual publishes report saying that January's GCSE English exams were "graded generously" and that June boundaries were properly set and candidates' work properly graded.