Exam board accused of ‘betraying’ GCSE English pupils

Experienced senior grade examiner blows whistle on AQA GCSE marking 'shit show' that has left examiners 'horrified'

William Stewart

A senior examiner has raised concerns about 'confusion' over the marking of an AQA GCSE English language paper

GCSE English language candidates are being “betrayed” by the AQA exam board, with standards for marking “all over the place”, an experienced examiner has claimed.

The insider, who has spoken to Tes, has used social media to highlight their concerns about a “shit show” surrounding the marking of one of the two papers for the board’s English language GCSE 8700 specification.

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They say that examiners have been “shocked” and “horrified” by the scripts selected as standard guides for markers.

They say this means that the “standard is skewed” for the paper and that examiners don’t have the full range of examples of different levels of performance on the paper.

tweet from whistleblower

“The standardisation scripts are all over the place,” the senior grade examiner has tweeted.

“There was NO DEBATE at pre-standardisation among the senior examiners. That means that the meeting where the standard is evaluated and agreed was a farce. We had examiners horrified at the standard.”

GCSE English marking fears

But AQA said it has "very effective quality assurance measures in place to make sure examiners mark to a high standard".

The whistle-blower told Tes that their concerns are shared by many other AQA GCSE English examiners they have communicated with.

They said the problems in the standards set for marking are demonstrated by the number of markers failing spot checks supposed to ensure that standards are consistent.

The examiner identifies a particular problem with a creative writing question that accounts for half the marks available on the paper and 25 per cent of the whole GCSE.

They say the answer given to markers as an example of what deserves full marks is, in fact, “crap”. And to further confuse the issue, the examiner told Tes that standardisation answers supposed to be of a lower standard were, in their opinion, actually better than the supposed “top” answer.

They say this means that “kids are being betrayed”, and they have tweeted examples of the discrepancies being thrown up when answers are double-marked.

In one, the pupil was given 14 out of 40 marks for question 5 when the “correct” score should have been 21, and in another a pupil was awarded 26 marks when a more senior examiner deemed the “correct” mark to be 40.

“People are failing the seeds/double-marked scripts all over the place,” the whistle-blowing examiner tweeted. “I mean, it's really fucked more than I've seen in eight years of examining, especially for Q5.”

examiner's tweet

The examiner is particularly concerned because they say “only about one in 10 scripts” are checked with double-marking and they fear many more discrepancies could be missed.

They also told Tes that some examiners, unhappy with this year’s standardisation materials, were using those for 2018 instead. Because others had stuck with the 2019 examples, the consistency of marking was allegedly further compromised.

The examiner’s tweets, now deleted because of fears about being identified, are clear about the root of the problem.

“It's because the TOP SCRIPT in the standardisation pack is CRAP,” they say. “You would think it clunky and mechanical, but we've been told it's full marks and there's no debate."

They told Tes they had contacted their manager about the problems. They said they shared the concerns and had passed the matter further up the chain, but the whistleblower had yet to hear anything back from AQA.

Claire Thomson, AQA’s director of operations, said: “These personal opinions – which the user has now deleted – don’t reflect the overall picture.

"Getting students the results they deserve is our top priority and we have very effective quality assurance measures in place to make sure examiners mark to a high standard. Some of what this anonymous examiner has shared on Twitter actually shows that these measures are working because we’re identifying examiners who aren’t marking well enough.

"But we care about our examiners’ views and we’re keen to speak with the person who posted them."

An AQA spokesperson added: "All examiners have their work checked and they’re stopped if they’re not marking to a high enough standard.

"In terms of setting the standard, we had a group of very experienced senior examiners who spent days agreeing and setting the standard.

"We have around 2,000 examiners for GCSE English language, so, regrettably, there will always be some who don’t enjoy the experience – but that doesn’t mean they speak for everyone."



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William Stewart

William Stewart

William Stewart is News editor at Tes

Find me on Twitter @wstewarttes

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