Poor GCSE grades might be worth challenging

You might have noticed recently that there has been a row about the marking and awarding of GCSE grades in the UK. GSCE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education, and they are usually sat by pupils aged between fourteen and sixteen.

This year, there’s been a thorough-going row about the grades awarded. The marking was much tougher than in the Spring term, 2012, which meant, for example, that pupils expecting a C-grade got a D instead. What lay behind this are the clear signs over the past ten years that it has been getting easier every year to get A-grades.

The reason for this is that there are a number of Examination Boards, including an Oxford Board and a Cambridge Board. They are in competition for examinees, which means they want as many pupils to get high grades as possible, and that has led to a weakening of standards.

The situation is called Grade Inflation, and this summer action was finally taken.

Now, whilst I teach for the London College of Communication amongst other things, and my wife works at Parliament Hill School, and my elder daughter is Assistant Headmistress at The Jubilee Primary School in Hackney, I am not an expert on this subject.

However, I do have some experience which might be helpful for anguished parents and their offspring.

Many years ago, when Noah was still building the Ark, I finished my Finals at Oxford and then got a temporary job working for the Oxford Examination Board. This is in Summertown, in the north of Oxford.

Thirty or so of us sat for seven hours a day checking the marking of French dictation scripts at A-level, which are taken by 17 and eighteen year olds.

We looked at a number of parameters, including checking that the examiners had added up the students’ mistakes correctly.

Approximately 30% of the scores were wrong.

Now, this was a long time ago, so I expect some things have improved, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are still errors in collating marks in scripts which are cursive rather than numeric.

And that makes me think that any parent, whose son or daughter has achieved a grade lower than expected, should challenge it.

If my experience is still valid, for many parents the challenge would be worth while.

At a maximum, they might have a 30% chance of an increased grade.

Equally, they also have a chance of a downgrading, so it’s only worthwhile for parents who have good reason for expecting a higher rather than a lower grade.

But, if it was me, I’d complain.

My thanks to Casey Lessard for permission to use the photo at the top of this blog: http://www.caseylessard.com/