Legal challenge in GCSE grades row
FOUR South Cheshire schools are mounting a legal challenge after some of their pupils were given lower grades than expected in English GCSEs.
Eaton Bank Academy, in Congleton, Alsager School, King's Grove School, in Crewe, and Sandbach High have joined forces with 113 other schools, 36 councils, seven teaching associations, and 180 pupils nationwide for the legal action.
They are demanding exams regulator Ofqual rethinks its refusal to re-grade this summer's English exam papers and coursework or they are threatening to seek a judicial review.
The case is against Ofqual and two of the main exam boards, AQA and Edexcel.
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It rests on whether the authorities were right to lower the grade boundaries between January and June this year.
These changes meant teenagers who were assessed earlier in the year were able to get Cs, yet many pupils with exactly the same raw marks in the summer papers were given Ds.
It came after exam chiefs had been under increasing pressure to tackle accusations of grade inflation.
Ann Webb, headteacher of Eaton Bank Academy, is convinced 35 out of 157 year 11 students at her school were adversely affected.
The pupils took their English exam a year early and then submitted their coursework this summer.
Mrs Webb said: "The impact has been with the coursework. If they had also taken the exam in June this year, they'd have been doubly disadvantaged.
"We had nine students whom we expected to get a C, who got a D. It also had an impact on students who were either at A* or A standard or at the B and C level. It's not fair on young people."
After the grades row erupted last month, Ofqual carried out an inquiry.
Although it found no problems with the June results, it suggested the January papers were marked too leniently.
Education Secretary Michael Gove has so far refused to intervene.
Yet in Wales, his counterpart ordered exam board WJEC to adjust GCSE English grades, leading to almost 2,400 pupils getting better results.
Now the alliance of English schools and councils has begun its legal case by sending a 'pre-action' letter to Ofqual, AQA and Edexcel.
The issue could also have much wider implications because GCSE English is a key indicator for judging school success.
And there is added pressure on King's Grove School, which is in special measures and needs to improve in order to pass its next inspection.
Its headteacher, Trevor Langston, was unavailable for comment.
Janet Scott, acting headteacher of league table-topping Sandbach High, said the grade boundary changes affected year 10 pupils who took the English language exam this summer.
She said: "We were astounded to find, at every grade level, girls hadn't achieved the grades they were expected. I feel there's been gross unfairness."
An Ofqual spokesman said the matter was in the hands of their lawyers.
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