31/08/2012 14:19 BST | Updated 31/08/2012 16:41 BST

GCSE Grade Petition Launched To Re-Mark English Papers After Ofqual Grade Fiasco

Pupils have launched a petition to have their GCSE English Literature exam papers re-marked after they were left "devastated" by their grades, which they claim were affected by Ofqual's boundary changes.

Jodie Sullivan and Lade Ajose, both 16, have already secured more than 1,700 signatures since starting the petition on Friday.

One week ago the two teenagers, who attend Harris Academy in Peckham, South London, arrived at school to receive their GCSE results. After "working hard for two years", both were left reeling from their English Lit results - which fell by one grade. Jodie was predicted an A and received a B while Lade was predicted an A* but received an A.

"We both felt disheartened and quite destroyed," Jade told The Huffington Post UK. "The one grade lower can completely affect our university choices as they usually look back at English."

"Our chances of receiving the grades we deserved have been stolen," the duo wrote on their petition website. "A false consciousness was created and many of us put in hard work, thinking it would pay off and that we would achieve the grade we deserved for all the effort put into the exam.

"Changing the grade boundaries and marking down the English GCSE has ripped away the chances of students who took the exams.

"We saw our friends' achievements destroyed," they added.

It emerged on Friday morning Ofqual identified GCSE grading problems three years ago but failed to act on advice.

If the students affected had sat the exam in January instead of June, many would have received at least a grade above what they were awarded on 23 August.

For the first time in history, top GCSE grades fell - prompting the row over "shifting the goal posts".

At the time, one teacher commented: "They haven't moved the goal posts, they've put them on a different chuffing planet."

Neither Lade nor Jodie were warned by their teachers the exam papers would be any different from previous exams - which students are often given to practise with.

"We had no clue anything was different," Jodie says. "Especially with the Higher English Literature Poetry paper. In English Literature the named poems usually came up every year. This year we studied them and not a single one came up! Luckily enough we could substitute the skills we had picked up into another poem."

The national figures showed in the English GCSE, 63.9% of entries got at least a C, compared with 65.4% last summer, while 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.

Michael Shaw, deputy editor of the Times Educational Supplement said he had spoken to teachers who were "extremely concerned" about their students' results due to the extent of the changes.

"One teacher told me the way one exam paper was divided up had changed so much she had to instruct students which questions to answer first.

"The last question was worth 25% of the entire paper so she told students to answer that first - but many other teachers may have been unaware of this so not able to tell their students."

On Tuesday, members of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) union met with Ofqual senior officials to clarify the "serious" situation.

The meeting followed calls from headteachers for the GCSE exams to be re-marked.

One head, who wishes to remain anonymous said:

"Our English department is fuming. Traditionally, they have been the highest performing core subject here and are now the worst performing, if the data is to be believed. No changes in staffing etc. It is the same department, same good teaching, as far as I am concerned."

Another described the boundary changes as having "devastated" the C to D borderline candidates, saying: "This looks like crude and heartless manipulation and pressure from the DfE and cannot go unchallenged."

A third added:

"After concerning results last year in English, we launched what can only be described as a high intervention programme (kids dropping a non-core GCSE to spend more time on English and Maths, heavy monitoring, parents' meetings, mentoring etc). As a result the Maths A*-C rate has increased by a double-digit percentage, but English has actually dropped! I smell a rat."

Brian Lightman, ASCL general secretary, described the union's meeting with Ofqual as "constructive".


"Feedback we have received indicates that at least 20% of secondary schools in England and Wales have been negatively affected by the grade boundary changes," he said.

"Not only is this hugely unfair on the young people who are affected, but it has huge repercussions for those schools which are due an Ofsted inspection this autumn.

"We want to see justice done for those young people who were unfairly were marked down on their results. This means reissuing grades to all pupils based on the January grade boundaries."

In response to the allegations made by the TES on Friday, an Ofqual spokesperson said:

"We are currently looking at the concerns that have been raised about some units in GCSE English this summer, and this may be one idea that could be revisited as part of that process."

Gerard Kelly, editor of the TES said: "It was nothing to do with the pupils and I don’t see why they should be penalised. They should certainly be given a second chance.

"It beggars belief why Ofqual, which knew that there were serious problems with English GCSE three years ago, failed to act. But because it didn't, pupils and schools are paying the price of bureaucratic cowardice."

Ofqual are due to release a report on the grade boundary changes on Friday.


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