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GCSE unfairness

October 3, 2012

Hundreds of young people across our city who sat the gateway qualification of GCSE English in June and performed at the same standard as their friends who sat the exam in January, have been awarded lower grades.

This is simply not fair and I’ve written to the Secretary of State for Education to urge him to intervene.

The exam board has admitted its mistake, saying the grades awarded were “generous”. The extent of the adjustment between January and June however is unprecedented – in some cases around ten marks.

I know that some grade adjustment goes on routinely from year to year, but never to this degree and schools are usually kept informed.

As far as I understand, at no point between January and June were teachers informed or warned that there was doubt about the January standards and that a significant grade boundary change was going to be made. This is unfair on the students and unfair on the teachers.

We now have a farcical situation now where pupils taking exams in June achieve the same standard as those in January but get a different grade and to simply offer June candidates a re-sit in November is insulting.

This inequality of treatment will affect young people across Newcastle when some of our brightest young students have their entry into sixth forms jeopardised. Indeed sixth forms and further education colleges are wondering how to cope with so many re-takes, many of which are with boards they haven’t worked with before.

I strongly believe it’s time to right the wrongs of the summer. We teach our children that it is a strength to admit when they make a mistake. Ofqual has admitted it made a mistake. But they addressed it by adjusting the June exams, therefore making our young people suffer.

That is why Newcastle City Council will join with others – an alliance of schools, other councils, teaching unions, parents and pupils – to challenge the exam boards and the regulator in the courts.

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