Britain's biggest exam board has been reprimanded for failing to re-mark pupils' GCSE papers despite concerns about the examiner who first marked them.
The AQA board did not re-mark English literature scripts from two schools which did not appeal against the grading judgements.
But four schools which did appeal obtained re-marks, with AQA acknowledging it had identified the examiner as "one whose performance gave grounds for concern".
The implication is that pupils at schools which did not appeal may have received incorrect grades. These schools cannot now challenge the examiners' judgements.
Mike Cresswell, director general of AQA, said that the board did not automatically re-mark all scripts marked by an examiner when concerns were raised about his or her marking. But it did consider whether there was evidence that other schools had been disadvantaged.
In this case, the two schools which did not receive a re-mark were not given one because there was no evidence that the examiner had not marked pupils' scripts properly.
The censure for AQA from the Examinations Appeal Board followed a case in which Cheltenham Ladies' college secured 60 improved grades after a lengthy appeals process.
The pound;23,337-a-year school appealed after its results plunged in 2003.
The previous year, 105 of 132 of its candidates achieved at least A grades.
In 2003, the figure was 40 out of 112, and the school said there had been no major changes in either the teaching staff or the ability of the pupils between the two years.
The appeals board granted the school's appeal. After originally being given six A*s, 34 As, 57 Bs, 11 Cs and 4 Ds, the college ended up with 16 A*s, 62 As, 28 Bs and 6 Cs. Three other schools had some or all of their candidates' work re-marked after appealing to AQA.
However, two other schools, which had not appealed, received no re-marks.
In a letter to Cheltenham's head, Vicky Tuck, the EAB said: "The (EAB) panel deprecates the decision not to extend the re-mark to all six centres allocated to the original marker. (It) regrets that, since the papers have now been destroyed, it is unable to recommend further action."
The Rev Helen Wood, Cheltenham's head of English, said she was concerned that schools without the college's resources might not have been able to appeal and therefore might have lost out.
Friday magazine 11