Ofqual to report on English GCSE row


England’s examinations and qualifications watchdog, Ofqual, is to reveal its initial findings in the debate over English GCSEs.

School head teachers have encouraged the exams regulator, Ofqual, to investigate the change in grade boundaries part way through the school year, which resulting in many students receiving lower results than expected in English GCSEs. For example, some students expecting a crucial C grade were given a D.

This year's GCSE results showed the first fall in the A* to C grades since the exams were introduced.

Ofqual's Glenys Stacey agreed to investigate saying there were questions over how grade bands were set, adding that this would be done quickly but thoroughly.

Figures supplied by ASCL suggested that a quarter of all secondaries in England and Wales had been affected, with complaints from elite independent schools starting to filter through.

Obtaining a C-grade in the core subject of English is crucial for pupils wishing to go on to further education college or sixth form to study A-levels or other qualifications such as BTecs.

The concern over English results is particularly pertinent because schools in England have to ensure that 40% of their pupils reach the government benchmark of five A*-C GCSEs, including maths and English.

“Certainly it seems to us that a large number of students have fallen well below what we had been expecting and the only way to address that would be to move the grade boundaries back,” Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said. “But that’s going to be a difficult decision and Ofqual would have to look at the implications of such a move very carefully.”

The investigation came after exam boards acknowledged that boundaries had been moved by as much as 10% part way through the year.

In GCSE English, 63.9% of entries this year got at least a grade C, compared with 65.4% last summer. Some 15% were awarded an A or A*, down from 16.8% in 2011.

In English literature, 76.3% of exams were awarded A*-C, compared with 78.4% last year, and 23.2% got at least an A, against 25% in 2011.

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