Exam errors row as 146 win upgrades

PUBLISHED: 12:30 10 April 2008 | UPDATED: 13:08 06 May 2010

NEARLY every pupil got higher scores in a GCSE paper after their secondary school took on an examination board over the marking. It is not the first time St George s School in Harpenden has successfully managed to get examination papers re-marked but it h

NEARLY every pupil got higher scores in a GCSE paper after their secondary school took on an examination board over the marking.

It is not the first time St George's School in Harpenden has successfully managed to get examination papers re-marked but it has never before had a problem on such a scale.

The upshot was that of 150 students, 146 got higher scores with four remaining the same and the number of A* students shot up from five to 53.

The problems arose over exam board OCR's marking of 150 GCSE scripts for Religious Studies.

The results were so disappointing and suggested such an unprecedented drop in grades that the school in Sun Lane felt it had no option other than to challenge the results.

Clare Urwin, head of RS at St George's, asked for re-marked scripts and spent hours checking the OCR Board marking. Assistant head Christine Theakston was also shut away for half a day to re-mark the papers for a course that the school has been teaching for over five years and in which it always achieves an extremely high number of the very top grades.

When all correspondence had been exhausted, head Norman Hoare decided to take the whole issue to an Independent Appeal Board last term.

The result was that OCR was ordered to appoint a new examiner to go over all 150 scripts and mark them again.

Mr Hoare has since written to all the families affected and has congratulated the staff on their perseverance.

He said: "We knew there was something seriously wrong. We have the same excellent teachers taking a course they had done for a number of years and which has always given us mostly A* and Bs. Suddenly you have this huge drop in grades and they don't match up to the predicted grades which we had to send to the Board in advance of the written papers in June."

Mr Hoare questioned why the exam board had not noticed such a huge drop in performance. "They could have avoided this by pressing a computer button and seeing they were so out of sync and making a call to the school."

Instead the school was left to fight hard over the issue and spend money to get the results rectified.

Analysis of the results showed that some students were increased by 20 marks with their grades lifted by two or three levels. Four went from E to a C, 12 from a C to an A, 17 from a B to an A* and two from a C to an A*

Mr Hoare praised OCR for the speed with which they acted when told to re-mark the papers but said the process of overturning results was stacked against schools unless they were prepared to go to the lengths St George's did.

Admitting it took "hours and hours" of work to get papers re-marked, he said the school was always confident that their teacher assessments were sound.

But he forecast more and more problems because of, "the sheer scale of the exam business these days." He added: "I think systems will be tightened up and there will be reviews of paper marking but while we have this huge paper chase, you are bound to get this kind of thing."

Stephen Hunt, head of malpractice and appeals, quality and standards division at OCR, said the exam board regretted that, occasionally and very rarely, the marking of exam papers was not as accurate as they would want it to be.

He added: "Appeals which resulted in a re-mark of scripts occurred only in respect of 334 scripts from eight centres out of a total of some 5.8 million examination entries.

"Of these re-marked scripts, changes to the mark issued took place in 245 cases, including those from St George's School.

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