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Talks over GCSE fiasco

John Townsley
Head teacher John Townsley said his students had "been robbed" of their grades. Credit: ITV Calendar

A Leeds head teacher will meet MPs today to discuss the GCSE marking fiasco. John Townsley said in August that his students had "been robbed" of their grades because examiners marked papers more harshly without warning teachers of the fact that boundaries were changing.

GCSEs under discussion

Education bosses are meeting for a summit in Leeds on the marking of this year's GCSEs. Many students got lower results than expected after grade boundaries were changed.

We are really pleased that we have been able to secure some excellent speakers at such short notice. This summit promises to provoke some passionate debate and discussions not only about the unfair grading of GCSEs but also the wider issues affecting the future of secondary qualifications. It is so important we do not forget about the young people mixed up in this, who, through not fault of their own, had their work devalued. This summit will help us keep the issue live."

– Cllr Judith Blake

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Leeds Council: Re-sits "unacceptable & misses the point"

There are at least 400 young people in Leeds whose future’s have been left hanging in the balance because of the unfair grading by some examination boards. The option to offer a re-sit is absolutely unacceptable and totally misses the point. This is not an issue of standards it’s an issue of fairness in relation to work students have already completed. These young people who, if their GCSE papers had been submitted just six months earlier with the same mark would have been awarded a ‘C’ grade, but were given a ‘D’ because of changes to the grade boundaries.

I am shocked Ofqual have suggested the grading in June was ‘fair’ – this does not help the thousands of young people who are now left without college places or apprenticeships through no fault of their own. We feel there is compelling evidence to formally pursue a judicial review against Ofqual and the examination boards responsible. We will contact the authorities and schools who have already approached us regarding joining forces on any legal action to ensure we get justice for the young people who have been so unfairly treated.

We urge college leaders and Further Education providers to be sympathetic to the young people who are affected by this to ensure they are not penalised for the examination boards’ mistake and Ofqual’s lack of action.”

– Councillor Judith Blake, executive board member responsible for children’s services

Exam regulator: "The June grade boundaries are right"

Exam regulator Ofqual say, as a result of their findings, they have agreed:

  • Revisiting the June grade boundaries would contradict our responsibility to maintain standards over time. The June boundaries are right
  • It would not be appropriate to revisit the January grade boundaries. That would mean lowering the grades of other students leading to more 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 and how grade boundaries are set
  • School and colleges who have submitted an Enquiry About Result for a candidate due to concerns over grade boundaries can withdraw this and incur no cost if they no longer wish to pursue it

Regulator: "the issue is January, not June grade boundaries"

  • For GCSE this summer, a complex and unique set of circumstances came together to create a highly unusual situation for schools, colleges and their students
  • The standard set for the GCSE English is comparable with the standard in previous years
  • June grade boundaries were properly set, and candidates work properly graded
  • The issue is January, not the June grade boundaries
  • Understandably, schools were over-reliant on the January 2012 boundaries to set expectations as there was little other information available to them

GCSE regulator: 'examiners have acted properly'

We have found that examiners acted properly, and set the boundaries using their best professional judgement, taking into account all of the evidence available to them. The June boundaries have been properly set, and candidates' work properly graded. _The issue is not the June, but the January boundaries. Again, examiners used their best judgement in setting these boundaries, but they had less data and information to work with.

Most candidates were not sitting at the time, they were waiting for June, and because they were new qualifications, examiners could not rely so much on direct comparisons with the past. As a result, those grade boundaries were set generously. We have thought carefully about what should be done, and spoken with external assessment experts about it. Our job is to maintain standards over time, so grades awarded are comparable from one year to the next.

– CHIEF REGULATOR GLENYS STACEY

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Leeds City Council to meet lawyers over GCSE results

Representatives from Leeds City Council will meet lawyers later to discuss weather to pursue legal action over this year's GCSE exam results. They are concerned that one of the country's main examination boards, AQA, changed the goalposts for students without informing schools.

Officials say that the grading system was altered for English exams in such a way that two students completing their coursework or test and achieving the same mark may have been given different grades depending on whether they submitted their work in January (Grade C) or June (Grade D).

“This fiasco will have a devastating impact on so many young people’s futures, through no fault of their own. This means that some students could be denied places on apprenticeships or college courses because of their English grades and this just is not right. I am outraged that the lives of young people are being played around with in this way. We agree that standards must be raised and exams must be rigorous and testing, but they must also be fair. Moving the goal posts mid year is not acceptable.

– Councillor Judith Blake, Leeds City Council

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