Exam marking system is ‘creaking under the strain’

10 December 2015

Ofqual has today published statistics showing an increase in the number of qualifications which were re-graded following challenges to results in the summer 2015 exam series. It has also announced a consultation about the exam appeal process.

Brian Lightman, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are very concerned about the rising number of exams which are having to be re-graded. These results are of critical importance to the future of young people and are a key measure on which schools are judged. We have warned for some time that the marking system is under huge pressure and fear that the increase in re-grades strongly suggests it is creaking under the strain.

“The Government this year chose to publish school performance tables early against our advice. The fact that so many exams have subsequently been re-graded demonstrates that these tables were not reliable and that the decision to publish them was unfair.

“We welcome the consultation announced by Ofqual today about the exam appeals system. We are particularly encouraged to see the proposal that schools should be able to see all marked exam scripts before deciding if they want them to be reviewed. Exam appeals can be costly and schools need to be able to make fully informed decisions. However, there are questions about how this proposal would work in practice which will need to be resolved.

“In the longer term the wider problems in the exam marking system have to be addressed. The current system in which teachers mark exams in their spare time for little pay is simply not able to cope with the sheer number of scripts which have to be marked each summer.

“We need a better resourced and more professionalised marking system to create greater capacity and a wider pool of assessment expertise.”