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GCSE and A-level remarks: What you need to know

As the education sector prepares for a report from Ofqual on remarks, expected next week, Tes answers the main questions

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As the education sector prepares for a report from Ofqual on remarks, expected next week, Tes answers the main questions

Exams watchdog Ofqual will release figures this week on the number of challenges to GCSE and A-level grades – and the proportion that resulted in a grade change.

Schools will be able to see whether more challenges have been made in light of the reformed GCSEs and A levels that were sat this summer.

Pupils took exams in tougher GCSEs in English and maths – as well as 13 reformed A levels.

Here are some key questions ahead of the statistical release.

What are reviews of marking and moderation?

Once a school has received its GCSE and A level results, it has to decide whether it thinks any of the marks awarded to pupils seem out of kilter.

Before making this decision, it may ask for the script – which comes at a cost, unless the exam board is Edexcel.

A school can ask for a “review of marking” –  where the original marking is reviewed to ensure the mark scheme has been applied correctly - until mid-September. It should receive responses by October.

Schools can also request a “review of moderation” if they’re not happy with their coursework marks.

If a school goes through the process but is still not satisfied with the outcome then it can appeal.

Have the rules around remarks changed in recent years?

Under measures introduced by Ofqual last year, exam boards are not allowed to change a mark unless there has been what the exams regulator calls a “clear marking error”. 

For years, the number of challenges to GCSE and A-level grades had been rising. But last year, following the changes, the number of challenges that schools made fell by 25 per cent.

Are we likely to see a rise in challenges this year?

Schools are held to account on their GCSE and A-level results, so they are going to want to challenge grades if they think the marking process hasn’t been fair.

And with some of the new qualifications – such as GCSE English – there have been concerns among the profession that the quality of marking wasn’t good enough, so there may be more challenges.

These concerns grew when a number of schools saw significant changes in pupils’ English GCSE grades after they were challenged – in some cases by two grades.

But with budgets being squeezed, not all schools will be able to challenge as many grades as they have done in the past – in case the challenge comes to nothing and they have to pay.

Should this nationwide data be released earlier?

In light of widespread concerns about the English GCSE this summer, calls have been made for the data to be published released earlier than mid-December.

Ofqual publishes the national figures on remarks just before the Christmas holidays – around four months after results day.

But Anne Heavey, education policy adviser of the NEU teaching union, told Tes that accelerating this would provide “more transparency”.

However, Ofqual said last month that it was still collecting data on reviews of marking for the 2017 summer exams – and stressed they are always published as soon as possible. 

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