Pupils face exam 'life sentence' if not allowed to appeal incorrect grades after coronavirus pandemic, warn teachers

Pupils face exam 'life sentence' if not allowed to appeal incorrect grades after coronavirus pandemic, warn teachers

August 6, 2020

PUPILS could be given a “life sentence” if they are not allowed to appeal incorrect grades in their GCSE or A-level exams, an educational expert has claimed.

School kids in England will get their grades next week that have been calculated using a statistical model after the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the exam season.

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But the exam regulator has ruled that appeals will only be allowed on technical grounds and not simply if a student believes they have been awarded an unfair grade.

Fears are growing that results day could descend into chaos if thousands of pupils are given questionable results.

One source familiar with the predicted grades model told The Daily Telegraph they believed that "all hell will break loose".

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) is being urged by leading headteachers to overhaul the system over concerns a generation of teenagers could lose out.

Dr Martin Stephen, the former High Master of St Paul's Boys' School, said the current results system was tantamount to "imposing a life sentence on children, with no effective right of appeal".

Ian Power, the general secretary of the Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference (HMC), which represents a number of prestigious schools including Eton, Harrow and Winchester, warned that allowing students the right to appeal against their grades this summer was a matter of "natural justice".

He warned exam boards could face a number of legal challenges unless the rules are changed.

Exam results day in Scotland was described as a “shambles” on Tuesday after nearly 125,000 predicted grades were downgraded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

Regulators in Scotland and England drew up statistical models to generate pupils’ grade after public exams were scrapped because of the coronavirus.

Both models are said to take into account various factors including data on a school's historic grades in the same subjects.

'HELL WILL BREAK LOOSE'

A source told the paper the statistical model being used to predict English exam results shared the same basic principles with the Scottish one.

However, pupils in Scotland are able to appeal against their results.

Appeals are only allowed by Ofqual if a school can prove the process was not followed correctly; such as if an error was made during the calculation process.

Mr Power said appeals were the "biggest concern" for the HMC this year, adding: "Having the right to appeal a result is natural justice. The appeals process this year is even more narrow than normal.

"Parents will take the action they feel they have to and, if that involves legal action, that could happen. That is part of the frustration."

Dr Stephen said the current system works fairly "only for those schools whose performance has been static for three years", adding that it is "grossly unfair to year groups who are unusually gifted".

The exam regulator launched a consultation in June which proposed some additional grounds on which students could challenge results.

The consultation, to which Ofqual is due to respond this week, outlined plans that would allow students to appeal if they believe they are the victims of discrimination or bias. Under the proposals, teenagers would be allowed to appeal to exam boards if they believe there is evidence of "serious malpractice" by their school.

An Ofqual spokesman said: "It is important that students understand their options, including the possibility of an appeal, if they do not receive the grade they expected.  

"Students will be able to appeal, through their school or college, if they believe a mistake has been made or that something has gone wrong in their case.  

"We are committed to helping students, and their families, understand the options available to them and will be publishing information on how appeals will operate this summer."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The vast majority of students will receive a calculated grade this summer that enables them to move on to the next stage of their education or training.

“Ofqual has developed a robust process that will take into account a range of evidence, including grades submitted by schools and colleges, with the primary aim of ensuring grades are as fair as possible for all students.

“Early data published by Ofqual shows calculated grades have had no impact on the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers, and ethnic minorities and their peers.”


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