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Friday, 29 August 2014

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Exam marking system labelled a fiasco by Cumbrian schools

Cumbrian schools have reacted angrily to the publication today of comparative GCSE results following controversy over the marking system.

One school labelled the process a “fiasco” and said it refused to accept the validity of the league tables due to the changes in the marking system last year.

In August five schools in Cumbria protested about a change in marking methods for the English GCSE, which meant many results were lower than in previous years.

League tables across the country suggest that teenagers are being let down. Thousands in Cumbria received lower grades than expected. Some others were marked up.

Richard Rose Central and Morton academies, Beacon Hill Community School in Aspatria, and Furness and Walney academies in the south of the county all failed to hit targets following the change.

Now two other schools have made their dissatisfaction clear following the publication of results.

Alan Mottershead, head at Trinity School in Carlisle, said: “It’s not right and we don’t know that the table will give a full picture. I don’t think they have allowed students to show what they are capable of.

“It’s not just the English marking, and it’s not helpful to form a picture of what the school is like.

“The exam round of 2012 left much to be desired.”

Geoff Walker, headteacher at Cockermouth School, said: “We do not recognise, or accept the validity, of this year’s league tables as they are based on a flawed process.

“The results in English were significantly reduced in a number of schools, including Cockermouth, because of the now well-publicised English marking fiasco.

“Parents, students and staff look forward to having their confidence restored in the exams system this year, when hopefully there will be a level playing field nationally.”

Following the change in the marking system schools in Carlisle, Aspatria and Barrow were not able to hit targets for GCSE grades.

Austin Friars St Monica’s School’s results fell from 89 per cent having five A* to C grades in 2011 to only 63 per cent having achieved the same level in 2012.

Headteacher Matt Harris said: “All our students took the exam at the end of year 11 and therefore have clearly been disadvantaged compared to their peers.

“Every grade for our pupils in English literature was greater or equal to the equivalent in English language.

“As a school we were delighted generally with the performance of our fifth form pupils but they were all affected by the changes to the boundaries.”

At the time, regulator Ofqual defended the system and said the exams were marked properly.

But the Cumbria secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Alan Rutter, gave a staunch defence of the schools, saying they were justifiably upset.

A legal challenge has since been launched by an alliance of pupils, schools and councils over the marking of the exams.

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