Exam chiefs get U for morality

A school's brightest pupils woke up to find poor exam results and their university hopes in tatters. Julie Henry reports

ANDREW Fisher thought "clerical error" when he received a call from a colleague the night before the A-level results, describing a problem with grades was of a clerical error.

But when the English teacher and deputy head of the private school Wrekin College, in Shropshire, sat down and studied the results, he turned cold.

In his set of seven students, six had received U grades in the final module and one had been awarded an E grade. In the other set taught by a different teacher, all seven received Us.

"I was staggered. I had never got a U in my 16-year teaching career. Two of the pupils who received unclassified on the OCR paper were among the brightest I have ever taught."

When re-mark requests upheld the results, Mr Fisher's reaction was to blame himself and to question his capabilities.

"I started thinking I must have misread the syllabus and made some terrible mistake."

However, talking to other teachers, it became clear that the pattern was being repeated in state as well as private schools and with other exam boards. Mr Fisher's first reaction was relief - and then an overwhelming anger.

"I have a real sense of immorality about it all. These students were getting straight As so applied for university courses that demanded straight As. Then they had their hearts ripped out on the day of the results.

"There was absolute silence from the exam chiefs and the QCA until the students opened the envelopes and saw U grades everywhere. That is inexcusable."

Mr Fisher has been incensed about remarks made by Ron McLone, OCR chief executive, Ken Boston, the QCA chief executive and Sir William Stubbs, its chairman, about teachers misunderstanding the standard of the harder A2.

"It is insulting to be told that after all the work, training, reading the material in great detail and discussing it with colleagues that teachers have got it so wrong."

The furore has left teachers uneasy about predicting grades for their pupils. And some parents wanted their children to switch to other subjects where there seemed more certainty.

One of this year's A2 group has taken a gap year and will resit her English A-level at a sixth-form college which does the AQA syllabus because she does not trust OCR.

Mr Fisher said: "I would love to face William Stubbs or the new head of the QCA so that they can see the reality of their actions and not hide in their ivory towers of statistics and falsehoods."

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