Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland GCSE and AS remark deadline re-opened for English Lit after grade jumps from D to A

By Claire Williamson

CCEA is reopening the appeal process for students to have their GCSE and AS Level English Literature exams remarked - after it emerged a pupil's grade dramatically jumped from a D to an A after a remark.

The revelations came on Monday's BBC Stephen Nolan that 676 pupils have asked for their AS Level English Literature papers to be remarked.

Concerns were also raised about the GCSE English Literature exam after one parent told how her daughter went from a grade D to A after getting a remark.

But the debacle has also raised concerns over the potentially prohibitive cost of re-marks - ranging from £18.45 at GCSE to £24.30 at AS Level - for children from less well-off families.

Head of CCEA, Justin Edwards, has now announced that they will reopen the window of opportunity to appeal. Students will now have until Tuesday October 17 to appeal their GCSE or AS Level English Literature exam mark.

He also said that one of the things they are looking at is the possibility of waiving the remark fees for children receiving free school meals.

Mr Edwards outlined the problem with the English Literature exam saying that there is an "interpretive" element to it and marking can be "subjective" instead of a simple right or wrong.

He stressed that out of 137,000 qualifications awarded only 12 pupils had their final grade moving more than two grade boundaries after a remark.

He said that requests for remarks were "slightly down" but that there is "always room for improvement".

He told the BBC's Nolan Show: "Where we are seeing large jumps, they are mainly in English Literature subject.

"It tends to happen in one component around the prose or analysis of text and books. There is an interpretive factor.

"That can happen in a subjective subject like English Lit, it's not just CCEA."

Mr Edwards said that, for example, there are many interpretations of JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and that a student could interpret it in a certain way but the "initial examiner may not see the context".

He said: "The child has explored and has come up with a novel answer which is a true and accurate answer and needs challenged.

"It's right to have professional debate in order to get the results back.

"It's important there are checks and balance. We will use cases like this to go back and train the examiners again."

Mr Edwards said he would not be reopening the appeal process for any other subject.

He added: "It's 12 out of 137,000 grades. It is the minority of cases, I don't dispute that we can do more."

Mr Edwards said that sometimes the problem can be the pupil's handwriting and that they are looking into introducing ICT into the examination process.

A DUP delegation including former education minister, Peter Weir, met with Mr Edwards and said they welcomed the action by CCEA.

The Strangford MLA said: "This increases public confidence and ensures that students can be confident in the grade they have achieved.

We reiterated our desire to see risk minimised for future years. Furthermore, we have been assured that CCEA will implement stringent measures to avoid this situation in the future. 

We have been assured that the examinations system is fit for purpose which is supported by the very low number of grades which change by two or more. Furthermore, we are satisfied that the system identified mistakes which have allowed CCEA to rectify. This ensures public confidence is maintained in our exam system and students can rest assured that their results are accurate.

It is important that this issue was dealt with in a calm and informed manner. We sought a meeting with CCEA rather than simply complaining and causing undue anxiety for parents, schools and most importantly, students.”

Alliance Education spokesman Chris Lyttle also welcomed the "commitment" of CCEA to reopen the appeal process.

He said: “Trust in our education system and those who grade pupils is paramount. I welcome this move by CCEA to reopen the re-marking system for another week. It is also welcome the organisation appears to recognise the need for a wider review of the charges applied for appeals. I hope that helps restore some of the confidence lost over the past few days.

“While it is a good move by CCEA, there is now a legitimate public concern on the fitness, fairness and accessibility of the marking system, particularly when it comes to English Literature, as well as the system of charges which apply for anyone wishing to access the re-marking system.

“I would urge CCEA to give the utmost consideration to suspending all charges for those who wish to see their English Literature papers re-marked and the risk of grade reductions, given the exceptional circumstances pertaining to this matter.”

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