Education & Family

Poor pupils cannot afford exam appeals, says union

Close up exam room Image copyright Jeff J Mitchell
Image caption Appeals against GCSE and A-level results rose by 48% last year

Schools who ask parents to pay for A-level and GCSE exam appeals risk discriminating against poorer pupils, says a teachers' union.

The ATL annual conference has heard that a sharp rise in appeals last summer, has resulted in more schools asking parents to pay for re-marks.

Exam boards charge up to £48.60 for each re-mark, the conference was told.

Schools can face appeal costs of tens of thousands of pounds, said ATL general secretary, Dr Mary Bousted.

The increasing bill has meant some schools and colleges have been asking parents to meet the cost of appealing against lower than expected grades, the conference heard.

'Regrettable'

Colin Cranmer, from Humberside, said the trend was causing "widespread concern".

"What if your family is on universal credit? What if you are a looked after child?" he asked.

"For students whose parents do not have a disposable income, the result is that they are denied access to justice in the education system in the form of fair reward for their efforts," said Dr Bousted.

Last summer the number of appeals at A-level and GCSE rose by 48%, to 450,000, according to figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland from the exams regulator, Ofqual.

Some 45,000 of these appeals resulted in changes to exam grades - a rise of 15% on 2013 figures, and 50% more than in 2011.

"We know the quality of exam marking is a real issue which is reflected in the rise in appeals," said Dr Bousted.

"There is a huge responsibility on Ofqual and on the boards to ensure marking is reliable."

Dr Bousted said some appeals had resulted in dramatic grade changes, citing an example of one paper being changed from unclassified to an A grade, after being re-marked.

Delegate Jackie Watton told the conference her school had spent £14,000 on re-marks last year, "enough to pay more than half the wages of an extra teacher".

A third of these resulted in an increased grade, said Ms Watton.

She said she expected even more results would be appealed this year.

Linear qualifications

"It is regrettable that schools feel they have to ask parents to fund these costs," said Dr Bousted.

Dr Bousted said constraints on re-sits and the move to linear qualifications which rely on end-of-course exams meant getting good results first time had become increasingly important.

She described the changes as "retrograde".

"We know grades can change for some teenagers, depending on the questions asked and what state of mind they are in on the day of the exam," said Dr Bousted.

The conference voted to commission research on the amount of money schools are spending on having examinations re-marked.

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