Southampton civic chiefs are financially backing a legal challenge to fight the fiasco over this summer’s GCSE English grades, the Daily Echo can reveal.
The city council has pledged £5,000 towards the court bid for justice for pupils left with lower than expected marks for the key subject because of unannounced shifts in grade boundaries by exam boards midway through the course.
It comes as hundreds of teenagers across the city and Hampshire prepare to resit their exams next month in a bid to get the crucial C grades they missed out on.
School and college leaders, unions and councils have reacted furiously to the scandal, which saw more than 130 youngsters in Southampton alone left with D grades, despite having appeared to be on course for higher marks, because exam boards shifted boundaries between January and July.
It meant some pupils with higher scores from summer assessments received worse grades than those who hadn’t done as well when they took the same tests earlier in the year.
Although schools and colleges have worked together to minimise the impact on individuals, many youngsters have missed out on courses or apprenticeships.
More than 45,000 students across England – about one in 14 who took the GCSE – will next month retake their English papers free of charge after exam boards offered a compromise over angry demands for remarking.
That is despite Welsh pupils having their papers regraded, after the country’s Education Secretary ordered an exam board to take the action.
Neither exams watchdog Ofqual or education Secretary Michael Gove has agreed to similar calls in England. Alice Wrighton, principal at Richard Taunton Sixth Form College, said the resits were adding more pressure on youngsters.
She said: “It is a fiasco, and of course the students are the innocent party and that makes me very angry. But it has put really unfair pressure and caused real additional anguish for them, and obviously inconvenience and extra pressure for us too.”
Southampton, which saw its proportion of pupils achieving the benchmark five A* to C English grades drop by nearly six percentage points because of the boundary changes, has now joined councils in Lewisham, Leeds and Manchester in backing the legal challenge. The cash has been diverted from the abandoned referendum on the plans to build a huge biomass plant at Southampton docks.
City education boss Councillor Sarah Bogle said: “I’ve said all along that Ofqual have some serious questions to answer over this and now with the combined will of our neighbours – and other councils around the country – we are determined to get justice for the pupils and schools that worked so hard only to have their hopes dashed.
“This debacle has had a detrimental impact on the plans and options for 136 pupils in Southampton. It has also affected the schools themselves, the morale of the teaching staff and has raised questions about how Ofsted inspections can work when grades are disputed.”