Every year it happens. Teachers see the GCSE or A-level results and wonder how that grade or that particular set of grades can be right. How can that student or, even worse, that set of students have lower grades than expected. Sometimes it's easy to sort out on the day because it's a basic clerical error - a group with 100 per cent course work being given 0 per cent instead being one real example.
But, if it's not obvious, then the tortuous and expensive process of challenging the grades begins. Some schools are better able to make that challenge because parents can afford a re-mark or the schools can.
Others decide it's too borderline to make the effort and unhappiness is confined to moaning in the staffroom or family kitchen.
Eton has done the profession a service by compiling a well-sourced dossier which begs many questions about GCSE and A-level marking. The QCA has done schools an even bigger service by instituting an overdue inquiry into standards of marking, as reported exclusively in The TES today. We can but hope it has teeth to make the boards change their ways. Yes, most marking is probably sound, but let's not forget that when it isn't, it can cost a student a longed-for place at a university of choice and affect career prospects.
We can't have a system when candidates with zero marks need a re-mark to give them the A they deserve. Confidence in the marking system is essential, as is the means to challenge it more easily than we can now.