Ofqual has published a staunch defence of its controversial decision to make it harder for schools to successfully appeal against their GCSE and A-level grades.
The move, which was announced by the exams watchdog last week, sparked outrage from teachers and parents alike, and led one prominent independent school head to brand it “cynical” with others labelling it "fundamentally flawed".
Under the measures, exam boards will not be allowed to change a mark unless there has been what Ofqual calls a “clear marking error”.
This is where the original mark could not reasonably have been awarded by a marker following the mark scheme, or where that the original marker made an “unreasonable exercise of academic judgement”. Administrative errors such as marks being added together incorrectly, or pages from exam scripts being missed, will also be changed.
Previously, markers looking at appeal cases were able to change marks and grades whenever they disagreed with an original decision.
Today Ofqual sought to allay any fears about the change. Here are the watchdog's five key arguments:
1. It’s not a ‘clampdown’
The regulator says it is not a clamping down on the number of reviews requested by schools. Schools and students can still ask for a mark to be reviewed if they “have concerns”.
2. Students shouldn’t worry
The timing of Ofqual’s announcement was criticised because it was made while pupils were sitting this summer's exams. But the organisation has sought to quell any anxieties, saying students shouldn’t worry that a “wrong mark” will not be corrected. Mistakes will happen, it says, within a assessment system that hands out 8 million GCSE, AS and A-level awards each year. But “none of the changes we are making will stand in the way of a marking mistake being found and corrected,” it claims.
3. There’s no right answer
A key issue with many subjects is that there isn’t a clear right or wrong answer. English and the humanities often rely on long form, essay responses, which can be subjectively marked. Ofqual notes this, and says original marks should remain if they are “appropriate”, even if a second examiner would give a different mark. "There is nothing wrong or unusual about that", it says.
4. Fair for all
Ofqual says it is “unfair” if certain students can have their grades changed “when the original mark was sound” just because the school asked for the review, while other students accept the mark they were originally given.
5. Majority rules
The regulator said “twice as many” respondents to its consultation said “appropriate marks” should stand. Reviewers should receive training to ensure mark schemes have been applied appropriately.