FURIOUS education leaders across Southampton and Hampshire have today launched an appeal for an “urgent independent investigation” into the fiasco surrounding GCSE English grades.

Several head teachers have already thrown their weight behind a petition started by an alliance of schools, colleges, unions and local authorities, demanding the issue is debated fully in Parliament.

As reported, hundreds of pupils at schools around the region were left disappointed with their results in the key subject after exam boards shifted grade boundaries without warning.

The changes between January and June, along with harsher marking of later papers, saw some teenagers being given a worse grade than another candidate, despite achieving more marks in their assessment.

For some youngsters, it has meant they have been unable to take up places at sixth-form or have missed out on apprenticeships.

Many head teachers are now anxiously looking over their shoulders because the lower-than-expected pass rates, which in some cases in Hampshire were up to 20 percentage points down on predictions, could see their schools labelled as failing by the Government.

The “unprecedented” education alliance, led by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), but also including teachers’ unions, independent schools and academies is fighting the “fundamentally unjust” errors that led to the debacle.

ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman said: “It is wrong for pupils to be graded differently for the same exam.

“Schools have not complained about the results in science – which dropped nationally by an even larger amount than English – because that process was seen as fair and transparent.”

The groups say they are backed by parents, with a survey revealing 70 per cent were not happy with the way GCSE marking was handled this year, with almost half wanting an immediate inquiry.

At least 15 head teachers from the Daily Echo region responded to calls from the ASCL for evidence of how schools had been affected by the grading chaos. Several have refused to publicly reveal their pass rates because they believe they are inaccurate.

NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said: “We need an inquiry and we need it urgently: jobs and college places are on the line. How can we persuade young people of the value of education when the outcomes are so arbitrary?”

Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove has admitted some pupils were unfairly penalised by the system, but has refused to step into the row.

Exams watchdog Ofqual has insisted that GCSE English tests papers will not be re-graded and results would stand, although pupils marked down would have the opportunity to re-sit in November as part of a special concession.