Leaked letter deepens GCSE grading row as Parliament hears of “major flaws”

A look at the day’s events regarding the ongoing GCSE grade fall out. With a look at the statements today in the committee and a statement from NUT.


In the wake of a leaked letter and story that will not go away, the education select committee heard evidence from Brian Lightman of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), and Glenys Stacey, chief regulator of Ofqual, in a session which has ignited the issue further.

The day began with Brian Lightman, who claimed there had been “major flaws” in the way in which this year’s examinations were graded.

Mr Lightman stated there had been concern of ‘over-generous’ marking in January, thus an attempt was made to counter-balance this with the downgrading of summer students’ exams which can only be seen as unfair, botched and irresponsible.

The head teacher by Brian Lightman’s side pointed to the 17% drop in his students’ grades compared to a very minor change last year, a quite peculiar statistical change.

Russell Hobby insisted Ofqual’s attempt for a ‘comparable outcome’ had failed and therefore a full independent inquiry must be held, Ofqual having already investigated itself and swiftly discovering the grades awarded were correct and the January marks were simply a little generous. For many this will not be satisfying and as seen today this is by no means over.

The NUT welcomed the decision of the education select committee to hold evidence sessions to explore their members’ concerns regarding GCSE grading.

In a statement realeased today, they insist:

“Pupils and schools were unaware of the change in the boundaries prior to the exam results.  The changes were not explained and have disadvantaged many thousands of pupils and their schools.”

They go onto to call for not just a full inquiry (which they hope today is the start off), stating:

“GCSE students across the country have been treated unfairly and have been disadvantaged in terms of their future life choices. None more so than those let down by the grading of their English GCSE papers. There should, therefore, be an urgent re-grading of this year’s English GCSEs. Offering resits in November is too little, too late.”

The occupant of the real hot seat and facing down the barrel of awkward questions was Glenys Stacey (pictured above), the chief regulator of Ofqual. Before the hearing, a leaked letter from Ofqual to the exam board Edexel proved the exam regulator had indeed ordered Edexcel to lower their grade boundaries. The letter revealed there was an 8% rise in achieved C grades than predicted.

Ofqual’s director of standards and research, Dennis Opposs, urged Edexcel on August 7th to adapt the results “closer to the predictions”. A very murky turn of phrase, which appears to suggest something different than the annual tweaking of grade boundaries, bearing in mind originally Edexcel refused to comply with Ofqual’s demand.

Stacey maintains they “acted our proper part”, remaining resolute in front of the committee – prompting Graham Stuart MP to admit they were “struggling to understand” how, if proper action was taken, the problem was not avoided.

Earlier today, as reported on Left Foot Forward, Welsh education minister Leighton Andrews ordered a re-marking on English Language GCSE papers – the question remains, will Gove follow suit?

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