HEADTEACHERS in east Cheshire – led by two principals from Holmes Chapel and Knutsford – have hit out at the country's exam boards over the 'inconsistency and inaccuracy' of the marking of GCSE papers that they believe is harming the future careers of students.

Denis Oliver, head at Holmes Chapel Comprehensive, has written the letter to Ofqual, the Government department that regulates exams and qualifications, citing examples of some students grades in one subject jumping from 'E' grades to 'A' after being remarked.

Knutsford Academy's head Mike Cladingbowl, former head of schools at OFSTED, has also signed the letter.

Mr Oliver, who wrote the letter on behalf of 20 high schools in the borough on behalf of the Cheshire East Association of Secondary Headteachers (CEASH), told the Guardian there had been 26 English GCSE exam papers at his school that had been remarked higher after being flagged up.

He added that in some cases exam papers in some subjects were being sent to China and other countries to be marked.

"There is a crisis in this country that they cannot get markers," he said.

"Kids who are straight out of university, with no teaching experience, are marking them. It is a little wonder that the quality is poor. What we are trying to do is to get some justice for the kids, they deserve better.

"I'm complaining because there is something bad happening here. I'm not whinging at Holmes Chapel's results because they are good.

"It's a crusade for me on behalf of these kids that have had their papers remarked."

He added it costs £50 to remark a paper and that money is refunded if the mark is increased.

In the letter to Ofqual Mr Oliver said: "We are united and unanimous in our concerns regarding the increasing inconsistency and inaccuracy in examination marking across all the English and Welsh Examination Boards.

"We call upon Ofqual to undertake an immediate quality assurance review to determine the full extent of these and to consider the detrimental impact that they have on individual students and on their schools.

"Furthermore we expect immediate and effective action to ensure a level of consistency proportionate with the level of impact that these results have on the life chances of the young people in our schools.

"We have compiled a number of examples of inconsistencies from the most recent examinations. The list is by no means comprehensive. In fact we believe that they represent the tip of an iceberg that we are convinced a full review will uncover."

Mr Oliver told the Guardian the school had real concerns over the marking of English papers from this year's exam, as these grades were crucial in students attempts to gain entry to college or a further education course.

"We have concerns re the marking of GCSE English," he said.

"Historically the English Faculty has been extremely accurate in predicting the likely examination outcomes for students taking English GCSE with a very high rate of success in securing ‘expected’ and ‘more than expected’ rates of progress.

"In this year the examination results were well below predicted and the levels of progress appeared to have taken a severe decline."

The letter has also been sent to all chief executives of all exam boards, Cheshire East MPs, director of Children’s Services, the TES, ASCL President and Chief Executive, chair of the ASCL Curriculum Committee, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Secretary of State for Education and the Shadow Secretary of State.

Are you a students that has suffered as a result of an exam paper being remarked? Call the newsdesk on 01606 813617.


EXAMPLES of the affect it has had on school's – and pupils – in the borough have been listed in the letter sent by Mr Oliver to Ofqual.

One high school in the borough said that due to an eight mark shift in Maths grade boundaries the Maths figure was affected by 10 per cent resulting in an eight per cent reduction in overall headlines A* to C.

Remarking also cost the school £4,000 from what they called 'an ever decreasing budget'. It added only a handful of grades changed, but a lot moved up but just below the boundary mark which made the school feel 'quite uneasy'.

At Holmes Chapel Comprehensive, one student contacted the school by email when his grade increased from a C to a B with the following: “Thanks for the update. Very happy with the result. Sucks they messed up because I had to do economics instead of English because I didn't get a B. Please could you let me know what happens with the other remark?”

Mr Oliver said: "Entrances to college depend upon the re-sit of English. Therefore, many students have been working on past papers and English skills and have been entered for the re-sit.

"The late change to their mark has meant their withdrawal from the re-sit and a waste of their time working on skills they already had – but that hadn’t been acknowledged – and an exam paper they had already passed.

"Many colleges offer students four A-levels to study. Those that are required to re-sit English or Maths are only allowed to study three. It is too late for them to join these courses now that their results are accurate."

Again at Holmes Chapel, following required exam board protocols, the school requested remarks resulting in the following: The re mark of 25 papers (in the first instance) with the following results: 76 per cent of exam scripts received an increased mark, 32 per cent resulted in an overall grade change and three students increased from D grade to C grade, increasing overall school A*to C including English and Maths from 72 per cent to 74 per cent.