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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 May, 2005, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
Exam boost for pupils if pet dies
Exam hall
Critics say the system sends out the wrong message
A system giving students extra marks if they have suffered personal trauma is being defended by an exams authority.

GCSE and A-level pupils in England are given 5% more if a parent dies close to exam day or 4% for a distant relative.

They get 2% more if a pet dies or 1% if they get a headache. Critics say the system panders to an "excuse for everything" attitude.

But the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) says taking such events into consideration is "nothing new".

The guidelines are set out by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which represents England's three main exam authorities, including the AQA.

'Nothing new'

AQA public affairs manager Claire Ellis said the system was an attempt to quantify the sorts of circumstances which would merit special consideration and ensure consistency across the various exam boards.

Type of trauma and % added
Recent death of parent or close relative - 5%
Recent death of distant family member - 4%
Witness to distressing event on day of exam - 3%
Hay fever - 2%
Death of family pet on day of exam - 2%
Pet dies day before exam - 1%
Headache - 1%

She said: "The number of extra marks available are actually rather small, and in most cases they do not change the final grade.

"However, they are a way of compensating a candidate who has been genuinely adversely affected by a situation beyond their control."

She added: "The applications will still go through the schools and colleges, who will be close to the candidates and have knowledge of their home circumstances.

"And a degree of proof will still be required. For example, in the case of illness, which makes up 85% of special consideration applications, a GP's letter may be required."

'Deal with it'

However, the scheme has not gone down well with pressure group Campaign for Real Education.

Chairman Nick Seaton said: "This panders to the growing attitude in society that there is an excuse for everything.

"Youngsters should realise that bad things happen in life and it is important to deal with them.

"Of course, there are circumstances when a pupil might be particularly distressed and a teacher can scribble a note on the exam paper, as happened in the past.

"But formalising and quantifying excuses in this way sends out the wrong message."

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