Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland pupil's GCSE grade jumps from D to A - hundreds appeal AS English results

CCEA 'looking into the matter'

Questions have been raised over exam results in Northern Ireland after hundreds of AS level students applied to have an exam remarked and a GCSE student jumped from a D to an A after a remark.

It emerged on Monday's BBC Stephen Nolan show that 676 pupils have asked for their AS Level English Literature papers to be remarked.

The revelations came as a parent told how her daughter went from a grade D to A after getting her GCSE English Literature exam remarked.

CCEA has said it is now looking into the matter.

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Mum Joanne said: "She was fourth year and sat three GCSEs. She went to collect her exam results and she rang me crying. She said she got a D in her English literature and said herself, 'it's not right'.

"So we waited til school started again and she went to the head of her year and we paid £18 for that one paper to be remarked and it came back as an A, where she was a point off an A*.

"I'm delighted for her and it has worked out OK for us."

The concerned parent said without the remark her child would not have had enough points to get into lower sixth.

She continued: "She was devastated, she was humiliated.  She did go into herself for the last couple of weeks.

"I rang the school and asked to speak to head of year and they were appalled. The principal will probably write to CCEA.

"It's the children's parents who maybe don't have the money or accepting what the governing body is saying."

The school is waiting for the paper to come back to see what went wrong.

She added: "You get the £18 back if there's an error.  We got our refund last week.  There are parents out there who don't have the money and accept the grade as it stands. But £18 for a lot of people is a lot of money."

In a separate case a father whose son got his maths GCSE remarked and went up a grade only to discover he was in fact half a mark off full-marks.

He said: "We had to pay £40 and he came back with an A*. He was only half a mark of one hundred percent in his GCSE maths. We wanted to remark his History but couldn't afford to pay another £40.

"I know there were kids who didn't get back to school because they didn't make the points for A Levels. When they had theirs remarked 10 kids got back to school 4 weeks late.

"History exam was four papers so it was £20 per paper and I couldn't afford it. He got a B in history and that was it. 

He added: "It's a big effect on all youngsters."

Ulster Unionist education spokesperson Rosemary Barton MLA, said she is horrified at the revelations.

She said: “I cannot begin to imagine the frustration and annoyance that this is to pupils and parents. As a former teacher of 32 years, I know this will also be distressing for all the staff involved.

“We believe and trust that professional bodies like CCEA will not make such major mistakes, especially those which can have such a lasting impact on a young person’s entire future.

“Now that such a mistake has been exposed the question remains as to how many other children were given the wrong result?

“It is vital that the entire marking and scoring process by CCEA is reviewed. More urgently however they should investigate the cases that have been brought to their attention, particularly those that have been marked by individuals where there are such significant differences in the scores. I also believe it may be necessary to reopen the appeal process to allow those who received what they believe to be wrong scores to have them looked at again.

“It should also be noted that prior to an examination teachers make a submission to CCEA of the expected grade of a pupil – I would urge CCEA to check these against the actual grade awarded and if there is a great discrepancy to investigate immediately.”

Fomer teacher and South Down MLA Sinead Bradley has directly wrote to the Chief Executive of CCEA requesting an urgent meeting.

Mrs Bradley said: "The stories of the personal impact these irregularities have had on young people is heart wrenching. It is completely unacceptable and unforgivable that the alleged irregular marking that has taken place has led to real hurt and damage for the young people affected."

"This is about the futures of our young people, we cannot underestimate the extent of the emotional damage that such vast discrepancies could have."

A CCEA spokeswoman said: "CCEA is currently looking into the matter surrounding GCSE and AS English Literature discussed on the Nolan Show this morning.

"CCEA has many processes for checking the quality of marking before candidates’ work reaches the remarking stage. For example, senior examiners monitor examiner performance as they mark scripts and we test markers abilities before they mark live papers.

"The Review of Marking process, often called remarking, is a process to protect candidates where they and their school feel that the mark or grade does not reflect the ability that the learner has demonstrated. It is an essential part of the quality control process.

"Remarking is carried out by senior examiners. Changes to marks can result in grades being lowered or raised. One of the key challenges with English Literature is the need for examiners to make judgements about the candidates responses. However, in the case of GCSE English Literature we recognise that there are a number of cases that require further investigation.

"Whilst cases of significant grade changes remain small in number, we continually strive to avoid distress to individual learners by annually reviewing the quality of markers and taking action where and when required. CCEA specialists are proactive in meeting with schools and teachers to help them understand such changes."

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