Serious concern over exam results

West Sussex Secondary Headteachers are gravely concerned about the last minute changes made to grades for English and Mathematics in this summer’s GCSE examinations.

There has been a great deal of publicity about the difference in marks needed to gain a C grade in the English GCSE between the January and June examinations.

What has attracted less attention nationally, but is also causing great concern for students and schools alike, are the changes made to the number of marks needed to gain a C grade in the OCR and AQA Mathematics modular examinations in comparison to the Mathematics Linear examinations taken in June.

The outcome of these two significant and unsignalled changes, made after students had taken the papers, is to see the overall 5A*-C grades including English and Mathematics obtained in our local schools tumble in some cases by 20 per cent on last year’s achievements, with the result that many students who had been assessed throughout their course as being on track for a C grade, or better in Mathematics and/or English, have found themselves with lower grades, unable to move forward onto their planned courses at further education.

This measure is also the key one used by Ofsted and the Government to judge the improvement in a school over time. For some schools then, as this measure has fallen dramatically if they have been hit by both the English and the Mathematics change, there is the added threat of the government forcing them to become academies as their performance has fallen below the 40 per cent threshold used to trigger enforced sponsored academy school status.

The explanations offered by OFQUAL so far are not adequate in response to this problem and fail to address the key issues. We are pressing for a judicial review on the matter.

Peter Griffiths, cabinet member for education, West Sussex County Council, has now stated that: “West Sussex County Council supports those governing bodies of Schools in the County that wish to seek from OFQUAL, AQA, OCR and their relevant examination boards, a timely revision of their grade boundaries.”

As headteachers of secondary schools across West Sussex, we are gravely concerned about the impact these changes have had on our students and on our schools and are urging all our parents, and particularly the parents of students who have suffered as a result of these changes, to write to their local MP requesting an independent enquiry into the issue and to consider going to this website: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/37620 and signing the online petition asking the Government to discuss the issue in Parliament.

West Sussex Secondary Headteachers’ Association

Comptons Lane, Horsham