Schools make 'tactical exam appeals' to boost scores
Schools are playing the exam system by lodging "tactical" appeals to boost their results, says a report.
England's exams regulator Ofqual says teachers are requesting re-marks in high numbers of GCSE and A-levels with results near key grade boundaries.
Heads see appeals over pupils with marks just below a grade boundary as a "one-way bet", it says, because these are likely to lead to a higher grade.
Ofqual chief Glenys Stacey plans to overhaul the exam appeals system.
Following a comprehensive review of the quality of marking in A-levels, GCSEs and other examinations, Ms Stacey said it was good overall in England.
But she acknowledged that confidence in the marking process was declining among teachers, and said the system could be "better still".
Singling out the exam appeals system for criticism, she said it had been "under increasing pressure, particularly from accountability measures". These included school performance tables and the requirement that schools ensure 40% of pupils gain five good GCSEs including English and maths.
She highlighted the fact that appeals focused on the C-D boundary at GCSE, with nearly 40% of all appeals coming from this group of candidates. At A-level the focus was on the A-B boundary with almost 35% of appeals coming from those graded B.
The report said: "Schools and colleges that are aware of subjectivity in marking know an enquiry about results may lead to a change in marks.
"Where students' marks are just below a key grade boundary, the likelihood is their grade will improve or, at worst, stay unchanged as a result of the enquiry.
"This led some head teachers to describe the practice of entering enquiries about results just below the grade boundaries as a 'one-way bet'."
Read more... (BBC News - 14 February)