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Court hears plight of students’ exam grades
12:40pm Wednesday 12th December 2012 in News
HUNDREDS of Southampton and Hampshire teenagers were the unfair victims of grade manipulation and a statistical fix, the High Court heard yesterday.
A Southampton City Council-backed legal bid to have results overturned began yesterday after the fiasco, which saw thousands of pupils “unfairly” receive lower grades for the same or better results than others who took exams earlier in the year.
An unprecedented coalition of local authorities, schools and teaching unions is challenging exam boards over their moves to raise the boundary needed to get a grade C between January and June, as well as the actions of England's exams regulator Ofqual.
The alliance claims that legally flawed shift led to an estimated 10,000 pupils – including 130 in Southampton and more than 500 in Hampshire – who sat exams in June missing out on a C grade, and is asking for papers taken this summer to be re-graded.
Southampton City Council put £5,000 towards the cost of bringing the action after anger erupted when results were announced, leaving many youngsters missing out on college or apprenticeship places.
Clive Sheldon QC, appearing for the alliance, told two judges it was not the fault of pupils, who had “worked well and hard”, that they had received the lower grades.
He said the evidence of unfairness was overwhelming, and students were victims of a radical change in grade boundaries that occurred without warning.
Mr Sheldon said Ofqual had ordered exam boards AQA and Edexcel to avoid “grade inflation”, insisting results should not be out of line with predictions based on performance in primary school tests.
The barrister told Lord Justice Elias and Mrs Justice Sharp the use of this “straitjacket” amounted to an unlawful abuse of power.
He argued the June students should be put in the position they would have been in had the grade boundaries in January been applied to them.
The boards and Ofqual are denying they acted unlawfully or unfairly in a hearing expected to last three days.
In a report into the fiasco, published last month, Ofqual said teachers were guilty of “significantly” over-marking papers amid pressure to produce good results, but furious teachers said their grades had been verified and praised by moderators.
The Welsh government has already ordered papers to be re-graded.