AQA admits breaking rules on exam re-marks

The exam board has been told to take action by Ofqual, to ensure that it abides by regulations over the review of exam grades

Jonathan Owen

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The AQA exam board has admitted that it failed to follow rules over the re-marking of GCSE and A-level papers earlier this year.

It broke several regulations over how and when grades should be changed, and is being forced by Ofqual to take action to ensure it complies with the rules, it has emerged.

An undertaking by AQA, published today, states that Ofqual “identified increases of marks and grades” from this year’s GCSE and A-level exams.

These were “considered to be inconsistent with fully compliant application” of the rules, known as Reviews of Marking and Moderation, it adds.

It continues: “Ofqual investigated this issue and concluded that AQA had not acted sufficiently to change reviewers’ behaviours and practices”.

English language GCSE was a particular area of concern for the regulator, Tes understands. 

This month, it emerged that there had been a surge in GCSE grades being changed – up 52 per cent on last year. Ofqual stated that the increase was largely down to a rise in successful review requests in GCSE English language and English literature.

Sally Collier, chief regulator at Ofqual, told MPs on Tuesday that she was “very disappointed” at the increase. Appearing before the Commons Education Select Committee, she said: “There has been a problem with the reviewing.”

She added: “Some exam boards have implemented it very well, and some exam boards haven’t”.

Today’s undertaking states that AQA recognised that “it failed to secure full compliance” with the regulations.

The exam board will change the way it trains and monitors its reviewers, according to the undertaking – which is a legally binding agreement.

This will include making it clearer “the circumstances in which changes of marks are appropriate, and in which they are not”. AQA will also ensure that its reviewers “have completed the mandatory training stipulated by AQA”.

The exam board has been given a deadline of 9 January 2018 to “demonstrate to Ofqual’s satisfaction that we have in place an appropriate monitoring and intervention plan for reviews of marking to take place”.

The improvements need to be in place for papers re-marked after last month’s GCSE resits, with the exam board to review its progress and report back to Ofqual by 15 March next year, outlining how it will apply the “lessons learnt” when reviewing papers from next summer’s exams.

An AQA spokesperson told TES: "Like other boards, we didn't manage the review process as well as we should have and we're sorry for this".

They added: "We've acted quickly to address this issue through changes to the support and monitoring we provide, and we've offered our undertaking to Ofqual to show how we will ensure that reviews always follow new Ofqual rules."

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Jonathan Owen

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