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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Teachers' anger at A-level stand-off
Exam
This summer's exams results are causing confusion

"This is the stuff of disbelief. It is just nonsense, we've been getting so uptight. We don't know how to get heard."

So says Wendy Griffiths, a teacher for 23 years and director of studies at an independent girls' school with one of the best A-level records in England.


I have assessed coursework as an A, had the comment 'no adjustment' from the moderator, and then found that the work has been dropped by two grades

Simon Barefoot, teacher

An investigation into complaints about marking will be completed by the exams watchdog by the end of this week.

And it will need to address the frustration of teachers at the stand-off with exam boards over coursework grades that they say are incorrect.

In the case of Wendy Griffiths, at St Catherine's School in Guildford, she is angered by the marking of coursework from pupils taking A-level geography, set by the OCR exam board.

"This has never happened before in all my career. The fact is that we know that these marks are wrong. It is so frustrating."

"We've never had this kind of mis-match with results. It just doesn't happen," she says.


Her teacher told us her coursework deserved an A. It was awarded an ungraded

Reverend Corke, parent

She says that an "exceptionally able pupil" had scored 100% in one paper, over 90% in another and then for her coursework, she was graded unclassified.

And this pattern was repeated for other pupils.

Justice

Peter Martin, father of a girl at the school, e-mailed BBC News Online to say that his daughter felt "cheated" by an unclassified mark for coursework which had dragged down her other excellent grades.

Mr Martin has written to the exam watchdog, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, saying that claims about the manipulation of results must be resolved so that "justice is done and is seen to be done".


The paper was returned unaltered and with no comments to verify or justify the original mark. Needless to say the school are just as mystified as we are

Jenny Kelsey, parent

Every one of the 10 pupils taking the geography exam had coursework marks that the school did not accept as plausible.

Unlike exams, coursework is seen by schools before submission and Ms Griffiths says that experienced teachers are not going to mistake an A grade for an unclassified.

Last year, she says an examiner described some of the geography coursework submitted as some of the best that they had ever seen.

And she says she fails to understand how work put forward by the same department was now being assessed as sub-standard.

After a re-mark failed to resolve the dispute, the school is now appealing over the grades.


As a former examiner I suspect what has happened is that many private schools have once again not followed instructions regarding coursework

David Fetteroll

But e-mails sent into BBC News Online suggest widespread concern about this year's grades - with many telling similar stories.

Harpal Singh Hungin wrote to say that despite getting 100% in part of his history A-level, he missed out on his first-choice university place because of a D grade for coursework.

"I was expecting an A grade for my history coursework, as it had been read by my teacher, who is an examiner for the OCR board," he wrote.

'Mystified'

Jenny Kelsey wrote with concerns about her daughter getting an unclassified grade in part of a music A-level for which she had been internally assessed as scoring an A grade.


I was expecting an A grade for my history coursework, as it had been read by my teacher, who is an examiner for the OCR board

Harpal Singh Hungin

When the grades were challenged "the paper was returned unaltered and with no comments to verify or justify the original mark. Needless to say the school are just as mystified as we are".

The Reverend Rod Corke told of similar contrasts between his daughter's A-level history coursework grade and her school's assessment.

"Her teacher told us her coursework deserved an A. It was awarded an ungraded," said Reverend Corke.

Simon Barefoot, head of department at a school in the midlands, has written of his frustration at this year's marking in Spanish.

"I have assessed coursework as an A, had the comment 'no adjustment' from the moderator, and then found that the work has been dropped by two grades.

"Basically, this is unfair to the student and means that next year's exams will be marked by us in a different way. This hardly gives teachers confidence in the exam boards."

Another reader, a former examiner, says that the problem could lie with the schools, particularly independent schools.

"As a former examiner I suspect what has happened is that many private schools have once again not followed instructions regarding coursework," writes David Fetteroll.

"Many private schools arrogantly believe that their interpretation of coursework is correct, while many other schools take the care to ascertain the marking criteria."

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See also:

17 Sep 02 | Education
16 Sep 02 | Education
15 Sep 02 | Education
02 Nov 01 | Mike Baker
10 Nov 01 | Mike Baker
Links to more Education stories are at the foot of the page.


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