What a pity for private pupils

20th October 2006 at 01:00
While I do not object to the existence of private schools per se, I rarely feel much sympathy for them when they claim to be hard done by. However, this all changed on reading your recent article entitled "Private schools query marking" (TES, October 6).

I suddenly found myself rooting for them in their endeavours to hold the exam boards to account for what seem to be manifest inadequacies in their assessment procedures.

As a head of English at a school in the state sector, I recently attempted a similar challenge. One of our current Year 13 students was rather surprised to have been awarded a borderline CD grade in one of her AS-level papers, given that she achieved an A and a B in the other two.

To gain some insight into this matter, she first parted with pound;9 to retrieve a copy of her paper, followed by pound;31 for a re-mark.

Unfortunately, this investment did not yield either a change in her mark or any explanation as to why it was so low.

I decided that the school should appeal and received a letter from Edexcel telling me that, by the end of the first stage, I could be liable for a bill of pound;120. I was pleased, therefore, when the response arrived without an invoice.

Apparently, the principal examiner had checked the marking for our centre and found nothing untoward. Clearly, the scrutiny of this august representative did not extend to observing that our marks for the paper in question were well out of kilter with the other two. Nor did it extend to noticing that, after a re-mark, another of our candidate's answers to the same paper had been increased by 14 marks, putting her well over the next grade boundary.

A stage two appeal was clearly beckoning, as was the prospect of more charges. This time, not only would I be charged the pound;120 for stage one but they would be slapping on another pound;65 for stage two. In addition, I would have to fill in a three-page form, reply within 14 days and travel up to London to attend the hearing in person.

There is a theme running through all of this and it isn't the transparency and accountability of the examinations process. So, I wish the private schools the best of luck.

Alex Smith Kent

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