Belfast Telegraph

Exams board must learn vital lessons

Editor's Viewpoint

Examination board CCEA argues that the relatively small number of false grades given to GCSE and A-level pupils does not cast doubt on the integrity of its marking systems.

And it also gives a detailed explanation of the checks and balances in the system which should pick up any mistakes.

Yet whether the board accepts it or not, public confidence in it has been shaken by the controversy over some mistakes highlighted today.

The board's explanation does not show how any pupil could see their results go from an original D grade to an A grade when re-marked.

The CCEA says only 12 pupils saw grades rise by more than one grade when re-marked, but it has to accept that is 12 too many and does not take account of other cases which could remain hidden because no call was made by either schools or pupils to have them checked.

All mistakes which give pupils lower grades or marks than they actually obtained are serious matters.

In some cases they prevent pupils returning to their school to do A-levels. They either have to find a new school or college, or they may even end their academic studies feeling that literally they did not make the grade and there is no point in continuing with education.

Wrong grades can be life-changing and can severely affect the self-esteem of pupils.

Examinations create a lot of stress, without pupils having the additional worry that they may not get the correct grades for their work.

The controversy has also revealed an inbuilt class bias in the system. Requesting that an exam paper is re-marked can cost from £18-24, which can be a lot of money for many hard-pressed parents.

They are effectively gambling that their child's paper has been wrongly graded.

If they are right, the money is returned; if not, it is kept by the board.

This is an issue that the CCEA needs to address urgently. It should not only be parents with sufficient funds who can challenge their children's grades.

The board now has the task to convince parents, pupils and schools that its marking system is as perfect as it can be and that no child will have their dreams trampled on by being given the wrong grades which prevents them from pursuing the academic course they both want and deserve.

The hope is that it has learned lessons from this controversy.

Belfast Telegraph

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