It has been a stressful time for many Northern Irish GCSE students this summer. Claims that the grade boundaries of the AQA GCSE English exam were changed half way through the academic year have left many students questioning the accuracy of their results. Many students have found that their predicted grades were far removed from the their actual results and for many this means they may be unable to pursue the further education goals they had their heart set on.
Read the full story below quoted from the Newsletter by Mark Rainey (Sat 2nd September)
THOUSANDS of GCSE pupils in Northern Ireland could be offered the chance to resit their English exam after the regulatory body granted the option to pupils in Great Britain.
There has been confusion over the validity of marks for English awarded by the AQA examination body after it was claimed grade boundaries — the marks required to achieve each grade — were changed halfway through the academic year.
After an initial investigation, exam regulator Ofqual yesterday ruled that all those with concerns could take an “early resit” of the exam this autumn.
Some schools and teachers in England had accused Education Secretary Michael Gove of political meddling to enforce a fall in the number of top grades.
After decades of rising achievement, last week’s GCSE results showed a slight decline in the number of A* to C grades awarded — a development welcomed by many commentators who have long complained of unrealistic “grade inflation” rendering the qualifications less credible.
Although the vast majority of pupils in the Province sit exams governed by the CCEA body, around 7,000 were enrolled to take the AQA English tests this year.
Some headteachers have claimed that many of the D grades received last week would have been marked as a C if the exam was taken last year.
Stormont’s education department has ordered the Northern Ireland exams regulator to carry out an “urgent review” of the AQA’s GCSE English awards to ensure fair play.
In a statement, Ofqual conceded that “while the overall subject grades awarded were correct,” it believes that assessments marked in January 2012 were “graded generously”.
It went on to say: “We have thought carefully about what should be done, and spoken with external assessment experts about it. Our job is to maintain standards over time, so grades awarded are comparable from one year to the next.”
Ofqual has said the exam boundaries being questioned were set in January when examiners “had less data and information to work with,” but are adamant that the June boundaries were properly set and candidates’ work properly graded.
However, the body has said that it recognises the strength of feeling and that affected pupils will now have the opportunity to re-sit the June exam.
A spokesman for the Department of Education said they would “monitor the situation” in England but would not necessarily be bound by the outcome when it came to resolving any local grievances.
In a separate statement, the education minister, John O’Dowd, said: “I am increasingly concerned at feedback from schools here in recent days following their analysis of results from AQA’s summer series of GCSE English and English language examinations.
“It is vitally important that we can all have confidence in the fairness and transparency of the arrangements for marking and grading examinations. I want to make sure therefore that the views of our schools and their students here are appropriately investigated.
“I also want to be assured that pupils here who have met the standard required for a C grade or better in GCSE English have not been denied that grade because of other factors.”
Mr O’Dowd said he would do everything he could “to ensure that the interests of students here are protected” and added: “It is important that the standard of qualifications across these islands is comparable.
“It is also important that students are recognised for the work they have done and if they have reached the standard set by an awarding organisation, their efforts should be rewarded by an appropriate grade.”