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Regrade rise sparks call for fewer exams

Heads call for a cut in testing after the number of re-marked GCSE scripts increases. Warwick Mansell reports

Nearly 100,000 A-level and GCSE papers were re-marked last year, resulting in more than 17,000 grade changes, official figures revealed this week.

Headteachers said the statistics, which come after the outcry over the regrading of some students' A-levels in 2002, underlined the need to cut the number of exams students take.

However, the A-level figures for 2003 appear to represent a decline on those for 2002, when there was an outcry over late changes to some students' grades.

The statistics, released by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, reveal that students requested re-marks of 38,440 GCSE papers in 2003, an increase of 16 per cent on the 33,147 in 2002.

Of these, 10,173 resulted in a grade change, a 28 per cent rise on 2002, when the figure was 7,927.

At A-level, comparisons are more difficult, as the way the figures are published has changed since last year.

However, it appears that the number of re-marks fell by 15 per cent last year, from 65,016 to 55,307. Of these, 7,282 resulted in a changed grade, compared to 7,540 the previous year.

In addition, 66 results were changed following complaints about clerical errors, where examiners had added up a candidate's marks incorrectly.

Some 740 candidates were still unhappy after asking for a re-mark or clerical check and formally appealed to the exam board against the grade.

This compares to 759 in 2002.

A QCA spokesman admitted that the authority had been surprised that the events of 2002, when 2,000 A-level grades were changed following a government inquiry into grading procedures, had not led to more complaints last year.

Last summer, Ken Boston, QCA chief executive, revealed that he was expecting an increase in the number of re-marks and appeals during 2003.

The QCA stressed that the number of A-level re-marks only represented a small percentage - 3 per cent - of the 1.9 million A-level and AS entries last year.

A QCA spokesman said: "We are pleased to see that last year there was a relatively small number of inquiries and appeals about examination results."

However, John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said the fact that the numbers of re-marks ran into tens of thousands highlighted the need to reduce examining in schools.

If the number of tests taken was reduced it was likely the quality of marking of individual papers would improve, he said.

The QCA has also pledged to cut the time it takes exam boards to process A-level remarks from 30 days to 20. The biggest board, AQA, processed only 54 per cent of appeals which went to an appeals panel within the existing deadline, the figures showed.

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