Ofqual in breach of its own rules


Ofqual’s own rules should have prevented controversial changes to the grading of this summer’s English GCSEs, according to the Times Educational Supplement (TES).

Teaching unions have accused Ofqual of "regulatory failure" and say it is more evidence of flawed exam marking, whilst Teachers have complained that pupils achieving exactly the same marks would have received different grades depending on what time of year they sat the exam.

But Ofqual argues that permitting grade boundaries to remain constant between January and June would have prompted a “big increase” in A*-C grades and breached its statutory duty to maintain standards.

A key document sent to exam boards sets out how it expects exam boards to use a process known as "comparable outcomes" to ensure that grade standards are maintained between GCSEs year-on-year. It sets out five conditions for when such processes should be used to alter the way papers are marked. The new English GCSEs fail to meet four of them.

The first is that pupils from that year in a subject "must be similar, in terms of ability, to those of previous years". The second condition was that the qualification must be "fit for purpose". The third condition was that the "nature of the qualification" must be the same. Finally, Ofqual said in the letter that comparable outcomes must only be applied where “previous grades were appropriate”.

Of these, the only condition that appears to have been met is that teaching standards have remained largely consistent.

However, Ofqual has interpreted its own conditions differently, and is insisting that the comparable outcomes approach that prevented grades from rising in June was correctly implemented.

But Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT heads' union, said: "Ofqual doesn't seem to have applied the concept of comparable outcomes properly. In this instance there is a regulatory failure. It is a big mess."

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