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Wednesday, 2 October, 2002, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Tens of thousands face A-level review
exam notice
Some students may opt to re-sit their A-levels
Tens of thousands of students are to have their A-level results reviewed - but it is still not clear how many results will then be re-graded.

I hope it will draw to an end the anxiety and uncertainty which has had to be endured by students over recent weeks

Mike Tomlinson
The head of the independent inquiry into this summer's exam fiasco, Mike Tomlinson, said 26 subjects were affected - more than twice his original estimate.

The exercise would cover 104 individual units of the AS and A2 exams taken this summer with the OCR, AQA and Edexcel exam boards - out of a total of 1,438 - which between them had more than 304,000 entries.

The review will be in two stages - but students whose results are re-graded will know, via their schools or colleges, by 15 October.

Mr Tomlinson has set out his proposed resolution of the "doubts and anxieties" that have hit students in a letter to the Education Secretary, Estelle Morris.

Top-level intervention

The units he identified are those where the three exam boards' chief executives intervened to alter the grade boundaries recommended by their chief examiners by more than was normal.

Their intervention is a routine part of the system - but this year the changes were, in 104 cases, bigger than had been the case for the old-style A-levels.

Wonder how many of my fellow students will be voting Labour now?

Barry, UK

In addition, the OCR board is going to review another two subjects - English Literature and psychology - because of the complaints there have been about these.

The first stage of the process will be to get evidence from the exam boards that - at the time the changes were made - their chief examiners were happy with what had been done.

Where they were not - and in many cases, Mr Tomlinson said, they were not even told - the grade boundaries will be reviewed by a special panel.

Independent scrutiny

The panel in each exam board will comprise its chief executive and chair of examiners for each subject, plus support staff - but also a chair of examiners for the same subject from another exam board, an observer from the QCA exams watchdog, and an independent observer recommended by the teacher and head teacher organisations.

They will look again at the material the original committee had when it first set the grade boundaries that were later altered - students' papers and statistical evidence.

They will make their own recommendations on how the grades for the papers should be awarded.

If these are different to those actually used this summer, students' results will be changed - though again he stressed, as he did when he presented his interim report last Friday, that nobody's grades will go down.


All the exam boards will announce the outcome together by 15 October.

Edexcel said later it expected that only about 250 students might be affected while AQA said the maximum would be "just over 300".

AQA says that in more than half of its final grade boundary adjustments candidates had been better off, not worse.

A spokesman for OCR said the board was unable to say how many candidates who took its exams might be affected.

Mr Tomlinson - the former chief inspector of England's schools - said the boards had co-operated fully, they had not been "dragged kicking and screaming".

"They are as keen as I am on behalf of the students, their parents and teachers to have this resolved and to have the doubts and anxieties put to rest," he said.

He repeated that none of the boards had done anything wrong - but that in view of what had happened the code of practice they work to needed to be tightened.

Coursework mystery

Mr Tomlinson was asked whether the movement of grade boundaries could account for the widespread complaints that students expected to get A or B grades had scored a U - often in coursework.

He said it could not. "In extremis" someone might go from a C to a U.

Did this not suggest a problem with marking rather than grading?

"I'm not dealing with marking at all."

'Predictable' crisis

The Conservative education spokesman, Damian Green, said it was now clear that the scale of the problem was even bigger than previously thought.

"The Department for Education and Estelle Morris appear to have no concept of the seriousness of this and how many young people it affects," he said.

Not only had what happened been predictable, it had been predicted - they were warned by exam experts that they were introducing the new, two-part A-level system too quickly, he added.

Mr Tomlinson has called the problems "an accident that was waiting to happen" and the second report of his inquiry, due in November, will focus on what needs to be done to prevent the drama of the last few weeks from happening again.

The BBC's Mike Baker
"Tens of thousands of students are still looking back at their A-Levels"
George Turnbull, AQA exam board
"You'll have tick box nobody can be sued"
Head of independent inquiry Mike Tomlinson
"Nobody will be downgraded"
The alleged A-level grades manipulation

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