Evidence given by SCHOOLS NorthEast to the Education Select Committee has uncovered systemic failure at exam boards throughout the 2014-15 academic year. This failure undermines the confidence of teachers in the system and disrupts the university choices of many students.
Problems highlighted by SNE Director Mike Parker included schools having to pay as much as £3,000 for independent moderators to reassess coursework, loss of exam papers and one report of a 23% drop in A*-C grades in English GCSEs despite the same course having been delivered in consecutive years. A raft of parental complaints and threats of legal action have been received by schools across the region. Many pupils have failed to obtain the grades for their university of choice due to the “volatility in performance” of exam boards.
Mr Parker urged Ofqual to take immediate action to hold the exam boards to account. He described the “reports of pandemonium in the marking room and the logistical shambles of significant losses of examination scripts” as a “serious breakdown of the system”. Teachers were left feeling that the goalposts were being dramatically shifted and that Ofqual was failing to engender confidence and ensure the rigorous standards expected.
Responding to the criticisms before the Education Select Committee, Ofqual’s chief regulator requested to meet with SCHOOLS NorthEast, insisting that the standard of marking was ‘generally good’ and that less than 1% of exam grades were changed following appeal each year.
The problems experienced by schools in the wake of the exam marking fiasco have left a crisis of confidence amongst teachers. This has also undermined the hard work of schools and pupils in the region, with some fearing the impact it may have on Ofsted reports and the reputational damage that schools might face as a consequence. Calls for reform extend beyond the need for a more rigorous approach from Ofqual, with some stakeholders, including SNE, calling for a rethink on the multi-exam board system and the inherent discrepancies in results that this can produce.