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Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 18:05 GMT 19:05 UK
Morris 'sorry' as A-levels are upgraded
Re-grading
Students faced disappointment with few upgrades
The Education Secretary Estelle Morris has apologised to students caught up in the A-level re-grading dispute.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Ms Morris promised to restore confidence in the exam system - after a review found that 1,220 A-level grades had been incorrect.

The re-grades
Almost 100,000 students' work reviewed
9,800 exam modules upgraded
1,945 students given higher grades
733 entries at AS-level, 1,220 at A-level
168 students can take up missed university places
All from OCR board

And she announced financial support for students who might transfer universities as a result of re-grading.

But the government's intervention following widespread concern about this year's grades, was dismissed as "staggeringly inept" by the Conservative education spokesperson, Damian Green.

The education secretary had presided over the "worst crisis ever for the exam system", said Mr Green.

And he challenged Ms Morris to extend the inquiry to address the many concerns of students and teachers that still remained.

Tuesday marked the final deadline for the re-grading of exam papers.

Students affected
A-level:
English Lit 9
Geography 9
History 336
French 264
German 65
Spanish 16
Music 2
Chemistry 28
Science 6
Physics 485

And only 1,220 A-level and 733 AS-level entrants have had their grades improved.

The University and Colleges Admissions Service says that the re-grading process will only affect 168 students - who will now be able to take up university places which they otherwise would have missed.

AS-level:
English Lit 293
Spanish 72
Music 241
Physics 127

This meant disappointment for the majority of more than 90,000 students whose papers had been sent back to the exam boards for re-grading.

Despite claims from School Standards Minister David Miliband that the "uncertainty is now over", there are still head teachers who remain to be convinced by this outcome.

Dave Forrest, head teacher of Orwell High School in Felixstowe, said that appeals were already being made against the re-grading decisions.

University places

And for students waiting to see whether this would affect their chances of university places - few received good news.

Katherine Rutland
Katherine Rutland has lost confidence in the system - and a place at Cambridge
There was disappointment for former pupil at Abbey School in Reading, Katherine Rutland, who was hoping for an improvement in her A-level score to secure a place at university.

"I've lost confidence in the system as well - I don't know who to trust."

In a letter sent by independent inquiry chairman, Mike Tomlinson, to the education secretary, he said that 9,800 candidate entries had been upgraded in 12 A-level and 6 AS-level modules.

Mike Tomlinson
Mike Tomlinson says that the review did not look at marking
But changes to these individual exam modules were not enough to affect many of the students' overall grades.

All of these affected papers were from the OCR examining board.

In response, head teachers' leader, David Hart, called on the chief executive of the exam board, Ron McClone, "to consider his position very carefully".

Vindicated

Sir William Stubbs, the former chairman of the exams watchdog QCA, who was sacked in the ensuing row, said the results vindicated not only the exam boards, but the A-level system itself.

Sir William Stubbs
Sir William Stubbs says the review shows that the inquiry was unnecessary

But the letter from Mike Tomlinson also made clear that his inquiry specifically only considered grading - and not how exams were marked.

At the heart of many complaints about this year's results had been a dispute over how coursework had been marked.

And e-mails from students to BBC News Online continued to challenge whether the inquiry should have looked at the allegations against marking, rather than grading.

Mr Tomlinson's independent inquiry was ordered by Estelle Morris after schools accused the exams watchdog - the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) - of putting pressure on examiners to depress grades.


Over 90,000 students will today be asking why their A-level results have been in question and their university places in doubt for two months

Phil Willis, Liberal Democrat spokesperson

The QCA was exonerated, but it announced on Tuesday steps to restore confidence - including that its "examinations task force" will meet for the first time this week.

And by mid-November it has promised to establish a clearer set of standards for the components of the A-level system.

A joint statement from the Secondary Heads Association and the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference appeared to seek to draw a line under the long-running dispute.

"We now need to move forward and restore the confidence of students, teachers, parents and the public in A-levels."

The Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, Phil Willis, said that the government's "paranoia" had damaged students and the integrity of the exam system.

"Over 90,000 students will today be asking why their A-level results have been in question and their university places in doubt for two months," he said.

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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Mike Baker reports
"The headteachers who raised the original concerns are happy with todays outcome"
Education Secretary Estelle Morris
"What the schools need now is certainty"
Secondary Heads' Association's Kate Griffin
"It was very important students had confidence in the system"
The alleged A-level grades manipulation

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See also:

15 Oct 02 | Education
14 Oct 02 | Education
15 Oct 02 | Education
15 Oct 02 | Education
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