Soured by 3 years of erratic marking

14th September 2007 at 01:00

a comprehensive is considering abandoning A-level psychology after what it says have been years of erratic marking by an exam board.

For the third year running, Wootton Upper School in Bedfordshire is in dispute with the OCR board over its grading of psychology AS papers, and it also has concerns over A2.

Juliet O'Callaghan, head of psychology, said the school could opt to teach critical thinking instead because of widespread concern about the OCR's psychology marking.

Mrs O'Callaghan's 59 students averaged E grades in the OCR's essay paper, compared with Bs in a short answer module and an investigation paper.

Yet last year, the opposite was true. Students performed two grades better (averaging Cs) on the essay paper than the investigation and short answer paper, where they averaged Es and Ds respectively.

In 2005, the essay paper was again the top performer, with students averaging C grades compared with Es in the short answer module and Ds in the investigation.

Mrs O'Callaghan said bad marking rather than changed teaching standards must be to blame, since she had taught all parts of the course to all students over all three years.

The results of re-marks appear to back her case. In 2005 and 2006, the school challenged the marks of a total of 65 students and two-thirds improved their grades when their papers were re-marked.

Mrs O'Callaghan is also unhappy about external marking of A2 coursework. This summer, two students asked for a re-mark and both improved their overall grades from a B to an A.

An OCR spokesman said the board could not comment because it was still considering the school's case.

Another sixth-form college approached by The TES has also had problems with this year's psychology AS essay paper. Its students scored Us on average, compared with high Cs in the other papers.

A teacher at the college said he had spoken to three other large institutions, all of which had uncovered the same problem.

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