Bid to change GCSE grades fails

Campaigners have lost a legal battle over GCSE grades.
Campaigners have lost a legal battle over GCSE grades.

A FAILED bid to overturn controversial GCSE grades has been described as “disappointing” for borough youngsters.

The High Court has rejected a legal challenge from school leaders, teachers’ unions and councils to change grade boundaries in last summer’s GCSE English exams.

Many pupils missed out on top grades, after boundaries were raised between the January and summer exams.

The court ruled that the results might have been unfair, but they were not unlawful, blocking a change in thousands of results.

Coun Joan Atkinson, lead member for children, young people and families at South Tyneside Council, said: “We are very disappointed with the court’s decision.

“We, along with a number of other local authorities, teaching unions and schools, believed we had a legitimate case, and that students who took the exams in May 2012 were not treated as favourably as those who took the exams in January.

“The judge ruled that Ofqual and exam boards did not act unlawfully, however, it did acknowledge that pupils were treated unfairly.

“This will be cold comfort to those teenagers whose choices may have been restricted because of their grades, and we are concerned about the negative impact this will may have on their futures.”

Liz Hayes, headteacher at Boldon School in New Road, Boldon Colliery, said: “I am bitterly disappointed at the judgement about GCSE English.

“All of the students worked incredibly hard, and they should have been awarded the correct grade.

“It is about the students, and not politics and league tables.

“The life chances of some of the young people will be affected by this decision, and that is most certainly not right.” The modular structure of the exam, with grades awarded at each stage, was identified as the underlying problem.

Regulators were faced with allowing the “unfairness” of a tougher grading for pupils taking the exams in the summer in order to protect GCSE standards.

The alternative would have been to retrospectively lower the results of pupils taking exams in January.

The ruling said changing the grade boundaries to the lower level would have created an “unrealistically high proportion of students obtaining a C grade” and as such, exams regulator Ofqual was correct to reject this proposal.

A spokeswoman for the AQA exam board said it was “acutely aware” of the distress caused to candidates who were disappointed by their results last year.

Rod Bristow, president of Pearson UK, which owns the Edexcel exam board, said there were lessons to be learned, but he was pleased the courts had found its awarding process “rigorous and fair”.

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