Thousands of pupils to resit English GCSEs

Brian Lightman, ASCL: "The students did everything asked of them. The problem is not the work the students produced"

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More than 45,000 students are to resit their English GCSEs next month after a row about grades, figures given to the BBC by exam boards show.

The figure is about one in 14 of those who took the exam earlier this year.

Pupils from England, Wales and Northern Ireland were offered the chance to redo part or all of their GCSE English after complaining they had been downgraded.

Meanwhile an alliance of heads' and teachers' unions is submitting a legal challenge to the High Court next week.

Exam boards said they were offering the English resits free of charge to schools as a response to strength of feeling on the issue.

The AQA board, which has the largest market share for English GCSE, said in an earlier statement that it had "followed the correct procedures and awarded the right grades" but understood students' disappointment.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "We know that thousands of students who sat the exam in June and got a D grade achieved the same level of work as their fellow students who took the exams in January and received a C.

"It is only because of when they took the exam that they are being penalised and told to resit the exam. This is completely unfair. Rather than telling these students to try again, their work should be marked to the same standard as if they took the exam in January."

Legal action

An alliance of heads and teachers' unions is continuing to press for June's papers to be regraded in line with the January C-grade boundaries.

In its pre-action letter, the alliance said pupils who took GCSE English in June had been treated with "conspicuous unfairness".

A spokesman for the alliance said that following a meeting of legal representatives on Wednesday, it had been decided a claim for a judicial review would be put forward next week.

"We have now thoroughly examined the case that we have and we are convinced of the merits of our case, and the expectation that we will have a success to get the outcome we want - which is a regrade for students," he said.

"We will be putting our claim together and submitting it over the next week."

Exams watchdog Ofqual conducted an inquiry into the fiasco, which concluded that January's GCSE English assessments were "graded generously" but the June boundaries were properly set and candidates' work properly graded.

The regulator insisted it would be inappropriate for either of the sets of exams to be regraded and students would be given an extra chance to resit the GCSE in November.

"We have responded to the pre-action letter and are rigorously defending our decisions," Ofqual said in an earlier statement.

In Wales, Education Minister Leighton Andrews ordered the WJEC exam board to regrade Welsh students' English papers.

As a result, nearly 2,400 Welsh pupils who took English with the exam board received better results.

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