Headteachers hit back at Ofqual report over ‘generous marking’

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Headteachers in South Holland have reacted angrily to suggestions by exam chiefs that over-generous marking made them raise GCSE English grade boundaries.

A report from exam regulator Ofqual said pressure on students to get good grades led teachers to mark English coursework too generously, resulting in exam boards being forced to set higher grade targets this summer.

The report, published two weeks ago, claimed targets were set at the right standard and that schools had wrongly assumed grade boundaries used in January would be maintained.

About a third of students from South Holland schools received lower GCSE English grades than expected and headteachers are waiting to see if a legal challenge launched last week by an alliance of schools in England is successful.

Janet Daniels, headteacher of Sir John Gleed School in Spalding, said: “It’s always a concern when suggestions are made that the teachers are to blame when everyone agrees the system is at fault.

“There were between 20 and 25 of our students who were directly affected by the change in grade boundaries which meant they were unable to go on to do the apprenticeships and college courses they wanted.

“It’s all well and good to say the marking was wrong, but what about the young people whose life choices have been impaired?

“The Ofqual report is a huge disappointment and mud-slinging of this sort isn’t helpful which is what the report does to some extent.”

Martyn Taylor, headteacher of Thomas Cowley High School in Donington, accused Ofqual of trying to “shift the blame” for the marking controversy and said students in England should have been re-graded upwards like those in Wales.

“This report is a clear and craven attempt to shift the blame for the utter shambles of this year’s GCSE English marking from the exam boards to the teachers,” Mr Taylor said.

“We did not cheat, as is implied by the Ofqual report, and the only cheating done was to our students who sat the same exams as students in Wales but haven’t benefited from the same upward re-grading as they have done.”

Nigel Ryan, headteacher of Spalding Grammar School, said: “From our analysis, 40 out of 122 boys from our school would have achieved at least one grade higher if the exam board applied the boundaries used in January to the June exam.

“Eighteen students re-sat the exam last week, including students who joined our Sixth Form from other schools and students who had already got at least a C grade but knew they deserved better. The Ofqual report demonstrates that an independent investigation is needed into this summer’s exam.”

Glenys Stacey, chief regulator for Ofqual, said: “Overall, the grading of GCSE English in the summer of 2012 was a fair reflection of the performance of pupils as a whole. But it is clearly hard for teachers to maintain their own integrity when they believe that there has been a widespread loss of integrity elsewhere.”