An alliance of hundreds of pupils and schools, and scores of local councils, as well as teaching unions, have lost their unprecedented legal challenge over GCSE English exam grades.
The alliance accused the AQA and Edexcel exam boards of unfairly pushing up the grade boundaries for English last summer in what amounted to "illegitimate grade manipulation" and "a statistical fix" involving exams regulator Ofqual.
But two judges at London's High Court today dismissed the challenge. Lord Justice Elias, sitting with Mrs Justice Sharp, said Ofqual had appreciated there were features which had operated unfairly and proposed numerous changes for the future designed to ensure problems that had arisen would not be repeated.
The judge said: "However, having now reviewed the evidence in detail, I am satisfied that it was indeed the structure of the qualification itself which is the source of such unfairness as has been demonstrated in this case, and not any unlawful action by (the exam boards)".
– Christine Blower - National Union of Teachers
“This is a very disappointing outcome. It is very clear to the NUT and the other organisations who brought this action that a great injustice has been done. An estimated 10,000 students who took their English GCSE exam in June 2012 missed out on a C grade as a result of the decisions by the examination boards. These students had achieved exactly the same standard as their classmates who were awarded a C grade just a few months earlier. Parents, pupils and teachers will feel very let down.”
Council bosses in West Yorkshire have reacted to the announcement Councillor Judith Blake who is deputy leader of Leeds City council, with responsibility for children’s services said:“
Although Lord Justice Elias acknowledged that we were right to raise the judicial review, we feel it is totally unreasonable to blame the modular system for these unfair results.
“Our legal challenge was thorough and showed clearly the unfairness of the exam boards’ decision to change the GCSE grade boundaries mid-year and the devastating impact this has had on thousands of young people across the country.
“It is, therefore, totally unsatisfactory that this has been ignored and the young people will not be granted the results they worked hard to achieve and would have achieved had their exams been graded, like many thousands of other students, earlier in the year or in the previous year.
“Many young people have already missed out on apprenticeships and college courses, and have been forced into making decisions about their education and future because of this mistake.
“We were only able to get to this stage because of the collaboration between students themselves and their families, head teachers, local authorities and professional bodies across the country who decided to stand up for the young people who have been treated so unfairly. So it is especially disappointing that the result is not what we had hoped for.
“We will now be seeking legal advice and discussing with the other members of the consortium whether we will appeal against this decision.”