GCSE results row: students offered resits

Ofqual maintains marking of June’s English exams was correct, but says resit move recognises schools’ ‘strength of feeling’

Teenagers who took GCSE English and English language exams in England this summer are to be offered special resits in November despite the exam regulator Ofqual saying there was no problem with the marking of their June exams.

The watchdog ruled out remarking the GCSEs despite schools claiming that the boundaries between grades C and D had been unfairly moved, resulting in fewer pupils had achieving top grades.

Instead, Ofqual suggested exams taken by other pupils in January had been too generous. But it was too late to re-mark those, they said, adding that lowering the grades of other students would lead to further concerns over fairness.

Chief regulator Glenys Stacey said: “We are grateful to schools and colleges for bringing their concerns to our attention so quickly. In response, we have looked carefully at how the exam boards have managed the awarding of all GCSE English qualifications this year.

“People were particularly concerned about the June grade boundaries. 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.”

She continued: “The issue is not the June, but the January boundaries. 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 spoken to exam boards and they have been very responsive. Recognising the strength of feeling, they will be offering early resits for students who sat the June units.”

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. Ofqual said: “Understandably, schools were over-reliant on the January 2012 boundaries to set expectations as there was little other information available to them.”

A review of GCSE English grades has also been ordered in Northern Ireland. Headteachers there also claim exam boards raised grade boundaries in English halfway through the year.

John O’Dowd, education minister at Stormont, said: “I am increasingly concerned at feedback from schools here in recent days. It is vitally important that we can all have confidence in the fairness and transparency of the arrangements for marking and grading examinations.”

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