Ofqual chief: schools are using exam appeals unfairly

The head of the exams watchdog today accused schools of systematically appealing all exam papers that fall one or two marks below the grade boundary.

Glenys Stacey, chief executive of Ofqual, told the education select committee that some schools were indulging in this “strategic appealing” and that it “did not seem particularly fair” to students or to other schools that did not.

She stressed that 400,000 requests for marks to be reviewed were made last year, but only a fifth of them resulted in grades being changed. She said only 627 had been changed by two grades or more.

“What’s going on there?” she said. “Contrary to popular belief, it’s not necessarily rogue markers. It’s generally systems issues, so perhaps scripts have been disaggregated and not put back together fully or the adding up of the marks isn’t right or isn’t complete.

“So the issues for exam boards are often about improving their systems so they are as foolproof and robust as possible.

“Of the 50,000 markers there will be occasions where markers are not working well enough. [But] now that marking is done electronically, exam boards can supervise it live.”

She said this meant that if a marker was “watching Coronation Street” whilst marking papers, and this caused them to give the same marks to every question, online systems would pick this up.

Ms Stacey repeated Ofqual’s pledge to overhaul the appeals system to “significantly improve” the way in which appeals are handled. The watchdog first announced proposals for an overhaul in a report published in February 2014.

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