Head seeks second mass re-mark

7th March 1997 at 00:00
"Dear people I am writing this article about are wood it good for a walk think about all the little animal which homes will be cut or burnt down like dear, rabbit, fox Badgers and all your kids who go down there."

This puzzling piece of prose by a 14-year-old was given a level 5 mark in the recent key stage 3 national curriculum tests, which is to say that it was judged a well-written and intelligent piece of writing.

A surprisingly good result, you might think. But Broadlands School, in the newly-created borough of Bath and North-East Somerset, is far from satisfied at this leniency towards a piece of work it freely describes as illiterate.

For the second year running, says the head of English, Adrian Jackson, his national curriculum English test results have been massively mismarked - a scale of inaccuracy which, he says, makes a mockery of the Prime Minister's recently-announced plans for league tables of test results at KS3 (14-year-olds).

The marks for this particular piece of writing were subsequently halved. Overall, he says, 42 pupils should have been given new levels as the result of over-marking and, more commonly, under-marking.

On a sample of the only five papers which did get an official re-mark, a level 5 was reduced to a level 4; a fail was raised to a level 3; a level 6 was given a level 7; and a level 5 was given a level 6. Mr Jackson is now pressing for the rest of his scripts to be re-examined.

Last year the same thing happened. At the upper end of the achievement scale, six Broadlands pupils had been awarded level 6; after re-marking 16 were given level 6 and one received level 7.

Mr Jackson has written to the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority to complain, describing the official marking as "careless, inconsistent and inaccurate". SCAA replied expressing concern.

He has also complained to the Southern Examining Group, which has the marking contract: the SEG apologised, blaming a marker who ignored instructions and "random" clerical errors.

"Now they are talking about publishing the results," says Mr Jackson. "Instead we should be publishing the evidence of how inadequate the marking has been.

"We only know about the errors at Broadlands because we have been right through them. Other heads of English are simply unable to face doing that. The teachers I have talked to locally feel under too much pressure to bother complaining."

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