Judge orders urgent hearing of GCSE English challenge

image captionThis summer's GCSE exam results were followed by months of controversy

An urgent hearing of a legal challenge over this summer's controversial GCSE English results has been ordered by a judge.

An alliance of pupils, schools and councils had lodged papers asking for a judicial review at London's High Court.

The case centres on last-minute shifts in grade boundaries in June's exams.

If permission to seek a judicial review is granted, then a full two-day court hearing will be held immediately. The hearing is expected within weeks.

The judge said the decision about whether to hold a judicial review should be heard in open court, after privately considering the merits of the application.

Almost 400 individual cases are involved in the mass challenge.

Last month the alliance served court documents on England's exams regulator, Ofqual, and two exam boards, AQA and Edexcel.

They claim pupils sitting the exams in one part of the year got different grades for the same marks obtained by those in another part of the year.

The news comes as more than 45,000 pupils prepare to resit their GCSE English exams.

The row over the English exams broke out as national GCSE results were published in August. They showed a fall in the percentage achieving grades A* to C for the first time in the exam's history.

'Graded generously'

Ofqual's initial inquiry into the controversy concluded that January's GCSE English assessments were "graded generously" but the June boundaries were properly set and candidates' work was graded correctly.

The regulator insisted it would be inappropriate for either set of exams to be regraded. Instead, students would be given an extra chance to resit the GCSE.

Since then Ofqual has stood by its actions, and responded to the news of the hearing saying: "We will co-operate fully with the judicial review process and will continue to rigorously defend our decisions."

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "We are delighted that the High Court has agreed that it is important to act quickly and has expedited the hearing.

"The longer it drags on, the longer justice is denied to all those students left in limbo."

National Association of Head Teachers' general secretary Russell Hobby said: "We welcome the judge's recognition of the importance of this case and the need for it to be heard as soon as possible.

"It is vital that the injustice suffered by so many young people is addressed without delay."

The shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg welcomed the news of an urgent hearing, adding: "It should never have come to this. Pupils and parents shouldn't be forced to go to the courts to get fair grades.

"Michael Gove has the power to sort out his exam shambles, as has already happened in Wales. Without a regrade of exams and a full, independent inquiry, young people will never get justice."

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