GCSE debate: Legal bid to have grades remarked fails

The debate that has followed the decision of the Exam Authorities last Summer to combat grade inflation by changing the grade boundaries of the June 2012 GCSE exams, has concluded with a legal attempt to overturn the GCSE results being rejected by the High Court.

An alliance of pupils, unions, school leavers, schools and councils brought a claim to the High Court before Lord Justice Elias and Mrs Justice Sharpe.

The main crux of the claim was an attempt by the alliance to bring the grade boundaries of the June 2012 exams into line with the boundaries previously exercised by the exam boards involved in January 2012. It was alleged that the Government’s exam regulator, Ofqual, and the exam boards Edexcel and AQA had unfairly moved the boundary between a C and a D grade in English exams taken in June, in what was described as a last minute “statistical fix” to counter grade inflation. This had meant that, allegedly, the bar had been raised higher for pupils sitting exams in June than those who submitted papers in the earlier January marking round.

The Ruling: Changing of grade boundaries held to be lawful

Lord Justice Elias and Mrs Justice Sharpe, however, ruled that, although on the face of it there was a level of unfairness which needed to be explained, the evidence suggested that it was not the changing of grade boundaries that was indeed unfair. It was in fact the structure of the GCSE qualification itself which, according to the Judges, was the source of any unfairness. Therefore, they held there had been no unlawful action by Ofqual or the other exam boards involved, and that the modular structure of the qualification was actually unfair. As the High Court Judges decided that Ofqual and the others had not made an error of law, permission for Judicial Review was not granted. This is likely to be the end of the case, but possibly not the debate.

GCSE reform: Is change afoot?

The Government is sending out quite clear messages that it intends to reform the GCSE qualification in order to bring it more in line with its continental counterparts. The reforms are expected to be announced in the coming months. There is likely to be a consultation.

Please contact us for further information and advice on any challenges to exam board rulings, and on the implementation of the mooted GCSE and other qualification reforms.

© RadcliffesLeBrasseur


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