Ofqual clamps down on re-marks

New rules from exam regulator say marks should not be changed unless there is ‘clear marking error’

Ofqual has today announced changes to the systems schools and colleges use to challenge GCSE, AS and A level results in England.

From this summer, exam boards:

  • Must tell examiners who review results that they should not change marks unless there is a clear marking error
  • Must monitor their reviewers to make sure that they are acting consistently
  • Must continue to make AS and A level scripts available to those schools who want them ahead of the closing date for reviews and will be able to choose to do the same for GCSE scripts
  • Will have to categorise the reasons about why a result has or has not been changed and, when requested to do so, provide this information to the centre or student

The changes follow a sharp increase in exam marking appeals, which stood at over 570,000 in summer 2015. Over 90,000 grades were changed as a result.

Sally Collier, Ofqual’s Chief Regulator, said that while correcting marking errors was a priority, it was a ‘misunderstanding’ that there is a ‘right mark’ and a ‘wrong mark’ for longer answers.

“The current review system exacerbates this as marks that have been given by one professional are often substituted by another professional with, usually, a higher mark,” she said. “Professional judgement needs to be exercised, and not overwritten. Our decisions will define a new era in fairness for all students, teachers and schools.”

Peter Hamilton, Chair of HMC’s Academic Policy Committee and Headmaster of Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boy’s School, said: “Despite the regulator’s claims, HMC and NAHT believe that the changes Ofqual have announced today will make the proper review when marks and grades are challenged by schools and colleges less clear, less consistent and less fair.

“We are especially concerned that the proposals do not commit the regulator to ensuring that each candidate passing through the exam system has their papers marked and graded with the necessary high levels of consistency and precision.  Without this, all claims about fairness ring very hollow.”

Russell Hobby, General Secretary of NAHT, said the new test of grade ‘reasonableness’ made things more vague.

“We agree that the current system has arbitrary features and this is why, with HMC, we have called for Ofqual to implement the method of re-marking that its own research shows is the most reliable and fair,” Russell said. “We regret that they have not implemented their own research findings.

“We wish to work closely with the regulator to increase the confidence of teachers, parents and students that exam grades are accurate. Unfortunately we think it is likely that today’s announcements will have a further adverse effect on confidence.”

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