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Teachers lose confidence in GCSE and A-level results over grading errors and 'constant change'

School leaders, teachers, pupils, parents and the public are all losing faith in GCSEs and A-levels amid concerns about “constant change" and incorrect marking in the exam system, new research shows.

A YouGov survey commissioned by Ofqual, the qualifications regulator, has found that more people had lost confidence in both sets of exams over the last year than had gained it. Opinions of GCSEs were particularly low among headteachers, with more than half – 53 per cent – saying they had less confidence in the qualification compared to the previous year. Just 6 per cent said they had more.

But major government reforms of A-levels and GCSEs being introduced from next year look set to make perceptions worse, as all five groups cited “constant change” as their biggest concern about the exams.

Fears about the lack of stability in the system were highest for GCSEs, where 79 per cent of headteachers said continuous change was a worry, with 69 per cent of teachers taking the same view.

Quality of marking was seen as another big problem, with school leaders the most dissatisfied. More than half – 57 per cent – disagreed when asked if they were confident about marking accuracy for GCSEs and 53 per cent said it had declined since 2012.

For A-levels, 49 per cent of headteachers said they did not have confidence in marking, with 46 per saying they thought accuracy had decreased in the last two years.

More than half of headteachers – 55 per cent - thought that at least 20 per cent of A-level students ended up with “the wrong grade”, with 49 per cent of believing that the same proportion of GCSE students suffer the same injustice.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of Schools and College Leaders, said: “The strong reputation of GCSEs is being eroded by constant, piecemeal change. Parents and students are confused, employers are frustrated and teachers are overwhelmed.

“As a result of these changes, students are receiving unexpected results that teachers are unable to understand or explain.

“We had changes to GCSE exams in some subjects this summer, there are more changes to other subjects coming next summer. Then there is the move to 1-9 grades for some but not all subjects the following summer, followed by numerical grades for the remaining subjects the following year.

“Now more than ever what is needed is for all political parties agree to a period of stability.”

The Ofqual report, Perceptions of A-levels, GCSEs and other qualifications, was based on a survey of 230 heads, 698 teachers, 365 pupils, 321 parents and 1,818 members of the public.    

Related stories:

GCSE reforms causing 'burnout' and stress for school staff August 8 2014

GCSE reform: What it will mean for your school April 3 2014

Gove presses on with GCSE reform February 15 2013

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