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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 21:13 GMT 22:13 UK
Exam entries to be re-marked
exam hall
Students have expressed their anger at the situation
Thousands of exam entries at the centre of a row over A-level grades are to be re-marked on the order of the Education Secretary, Estelle Morris.

The move comes after the Oxford and Cambridge and RSA (OCR) exam board admitted that some results were downgraded to ensure that this year's results were the same standard as last year's.


We understand that direct pressure by QCA was brought to bear on the chief executives of the three exam bodies in England

Edward Gould, HMC
Now papers and coursework marked by the OCR exam board that were questioned by students and their teachers will be "fast-tracked", the Department for Education said.

The announcement came after Ms Morris held a meeting with Dr Ken Boston, chief executive of exams watchdog the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), which is investigating the allegations of grade fixing.

"These are not statistics, these are people's futures," said Ms Morris.

"I have discussed this again with Dr Ken Boston and I have been assured that they are working on the review around the clock."

The QCA is due to report back to Ms Morris on Friday, but last week it indicated that it believed the grade-awarding process was "sound".

Independent inquiry

Meanwhile the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), the Girls' Schools Association (GSA) and the Secondary Heads Association called for an inquiry independent of the QCA, saying it was to blame for the alleged grade manipulation.

In a joint statement from HMC, GSA and Sha, HMC chairman Edward Gould said: "It is clear that OCR, AQA and Edexcel have statistically manipulated the decisions of awarding committees at chief executive level, bringing results down for candidates in both maintained and independent schools."

Edward Gould
Edward Gould demands a fully independent inquiry
"We understand that direct pressure by QCA was brought to bear on the chief executives of the three exam bodies in England," said Mr Gould.

"This resulted in each awarding body making statistical adjustments downwards."

Mr Gould said the simplest way to solve the problem was not to remark the entries, but to re-issue the results without "statistical manipulation".

He said the system of marking, which saw many candidates given marks well below what they had expected, had had dire consequences.

"Pupils have received bizarre unit profiles, for example AUA, final grades have been depressed, university places have been lost and experienced teachers in all schools have had their professionalism undermined, with, in the case of coursework, no redress.

"Parents are left confused and bewildered and chief examiners undervalued," he said.

Both sectors affected

President of Sha Kate Griffin said: "I think it is important that we stress that it is not a problem which is just prevalent in the independent sector."

"Sha represents both independent and maintained schools and sixth form colleges and we have been inundated with requests for further information from our members because they are so concerned about the unreliability of results that they have received this year."

Many schools (mainly from the independent sector) have accused OCR - as well as the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) - of deliberately downgrading A-level coursework to keep down the number of entries given A grades.

The boards have denied the claims, saying they followed the QCA's code of practice and ensured standards remained comparable to 2001.

Edexcel chief executive John Kerr said: "We categorically refute the allegation that we manipulated grades.

"Edexcel awarded all grades this year according to QCA's code of practice, relying on our examiners' professional judgment and using established processes and statistical support."

'Inappropriate pressure'

QCA chairman Sir William Stubbs denied allegations that it had intervened in the marking of A-level exams and had brought an inappropriate pressure to bear on awarding bodies.

"This is completely without foundation," he said.

"The policy of the QCA is, and always has been, that A-level standards must be maintained over time.

"Indeed, to ensure that this was clearly understood I earlier this year required assurances from the awarding bodies that they would consider a range of indicators when setting standards such as their professional judgment, statistical evidence and past examination performance.

"I stressed that to ignore these dimensions and constrain awards would be contrary to our code of practice and risk serious disadvantage to the students."

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mike Baker
"Public confidence in the English examination system has taken a real bashing"
The BBC's Andrew Marr
"The entire department is facing a really major crisis"
See also:

18 Sep 02 | Education
17 Sep 02 | Education
17 Sep 02 | Education
17 Sep 02 | Education
16 Sep 02 | Education
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