THE head of the body that regulates exam papers in England has visited Knutsford to meet with principals from schools in the borough after they raised concerns over the marking of GCSE papers.

In the Guardian two weeks ago we reported that Denis Oliver, principal at Holmes Chapel Comprehensive, had written a letter to Ofqual highlighting the 'inconsistency and inaccuracy' of the marking of GCSE papers on behalf of 20 high schools in the borough.

The letter was signed by headteachers, including Knutsford Academy's Mike Cladingbowl.

And on Monday, November 9, Amanda Spielman, chair of Ofqual, met with six headteachers from east Cheshire to discuss the concerns raised in the letter.

She told the Guardian the meeting was 'useful feedback' for the organisation.

"I think it was really good because we had a really wide ranging conversation digging into the things that are the most complex and difficult to manage in the exam system," she said.

"I hope we allayed some fears and we went through how sometimes the perceptions and the reality of the system can diverge. Every know and then there is a wrinkle in the system but it doesn't necessarily undermine the validity of the whole system.

"It's really important not to lose confidence because there are a lot of checks and balances that are not as visible as perhaps they would ideally be that do in fact operate to make the exam system pretty safe and secure.

"The number of the grade changes in the system are pretty tiny and its something easy to lose sight of, it's about one per cent of grades that change each year and an awful lot of those will be in the subjects that aren't the things that matter most to the individuals, so the first thing is not to blow it out of proportion and the second thing is that a lot of people, especially if they are continuing in the same institution, the school knows them, they know whether they are good enough to do English A level or whatever it may be.

"Good schools always apply the right level of discretion, it's only when people are changing institutions that there is a slightly higher anxiety about making sure people are properly matched up.

"We've got some food for thought about what particular areas where there is a real urgency for remarks and it is useful feedback for us."

She admitted feedback for the exam system was 'fantastic'.

"Headteachers and people who run the system on the ground are the ones that really know where the complications and difficulties arise," she added.

"The more we can understand that, the better we can do our job."

Mike Cladingbowl said he was pleased that the headteachers concerns were listened to.

"It was a very productive and friendly meeting," he said.

"We put forward our views on behalf of the students, parents and teachers of Cheshire East and beyond.

"They listened to many of our concerns and are taking active steps to do something about it. They went away with some new ideas and we are looking forward to seeing those soon.

"We will write to Ofqual and see how they take some of these ideas going forward to try and make the exam system more consistent and more reliable.

"On a personal note it was a pleasure to welcome Ofqual to Knutsford so that they could see our remarkable students in action. They visited some classrooms and walked around the school.

"They were very impressed by the facilities and above all the students, who as ever, were a credit to themselves and their parents.

"I felt a lot of pride showing them to our students.

"I know Amanda was very impressed when she spoke to our Sixth Form students who know a lot more about taking exams and the examination system than many of us did in our day when we were at school."