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Regrades refuel English dispute

The row about English coursework resurfaced again this week after a string of schools reported their GCSE marks had been upgraded.

In the most dramatic re-mark, Durham Johnston School in Durham had 180 English papers upgraded by the Northern Examinations and Assessment Board (NEAB). And at Bohunt School, in Liphook, Hampshire, 92 students were moved up a grade after an appeal to London Examinations.

The row has surfaced a week after the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority recommended increasing the amount of coursework in GCSE English. Ministers are expected to make an announcement in January.

The National Association for the Teaching of English, which blames the appeals on this year's new English GCSE, says teachers are not only baffled by low marks, but also by grades which are too high.

But the exam boards say the number of appeals this year is not greater than in previous years. English is a subjective exam, they say, and the move from 100 to 40 per cent coursework will affect pupils' performance. Coursework suits some students better, just as others do better in terminal exams.

John Dunford, head of Durham Johnston and vice-president of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "I'm blaming the Government for forcing schools to adopt an assessment system which we do not like and do not want and which has proved to be much less satisfactory than the coursework system."

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