County joins GCSE legal challenge

County Hall, Northampton.''Pic Paul Robinson     Paul J and Vaughan
County Hall, Northampton.''Pic Paul Robinson Paul J and Vaughan

Northamptonshire County Council is among a group of 36 local authorities making a legal challenge to the grading of this summer’s GCSE English exams.

However none of the schools listed as part of the challenge are in the Advertiser region. And head of English at Elizabeth Woodville School, which did see improved results, said they saw they changes coming.

Northampton School for Boys (NSB), Caroline Chisholm School and NCC are among a consortium of councils, schools, students and other groups collectively calling for a judicial review of the decision to increase the Grade C boundary in the GCSE foundation paper by 10 marks between January and June 2012.

Alex Hopkins, NCC’s director for customers, communities & learning, said: “It appears that students performing at exactly the same level in January and June have been given different results as a result of a decision to significantly adjust the grade boundaries.

”This is a huge injustice to all those students who had every expectation of achieving a C grade without which their future opportunities, whether in learning or employment, could be compromised.”

The consortium, made up of 113 schools, 36 councils, seven professional bodies and 180 students, is taking the legal action against the examinations regulator Ofqual and exam boards AQA and Edexcel.

A pre-action letter delivered today on behalf of the consortium giving the exam boards seven days in which to respond states: “It is inconceivable that two cohorts of students enrolled for the same course in the same academic year, who have undertaken the same work and invested the same effort, and who will be competing in future for the same opportunities, should be subjected to such radically different standards of assessment and award.”

The consortium is calling for GCSE English exam papers taken in June this year to be regraded now in line with the papers taken by their fellow pupils in January this year.

Mike Griffiths, headteacher of NSB, who is currently on a sabbatical year to be president of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said action was needed to restore confidence in the GCSE marking procedure.

He said: “All we want is the standards of last year’s GCSE exams to be applied to this year’s intake.

“It is completely unfair how certain schools have been disadvantaged by the marking process this year.

“We have a situation now where a child in Wales that got exactly the same score in the exam has been given a C while the child in England has a D.”

In August the head of English at Elizabeth Woodville School in Deanshanger and Roade told the Advertiser they saw the changes coming and made the necessary change to their approach.

Nationally 76 per cent of students were awarded A*-C in English literature, down from 78.4 per cent on last year. But at EWS just over 90 per cent of students made the grade.

Louise Symonds said they invited examiners to the school to explain the changes. She said students were disillusioned, but by keeping them informed they were able improve.

She said: “We are a high achieving department, so we refused to fall behind. We have a really dedicated staff who worked to help

students through a barrier, because a lot of them did feel demotivated, and we were all determined to get the best result we could.”