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Poor exam marking

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-16067541

Ofqual reported today a very significant rise in the number of re-marks and re-grades in this year's GCE and GCSE examinations. The rise is partly explained, say Ofqual, by a rise in the number of units being taken. This does not explain the rise of re-marks and re-grades at A-Leve. Whatever, any practising secondary school teacher knows, from plenty of anecdotal evidence, that standards of marking are too variable and may be declining. At my own school this year we had particular issues with AS level history and GCSE French and German.

In French we sent off 15 writing scripts for re-mark and 12 went up by a few UMS points, in two cases leading to higher grades. A small number of our German GCSE students saw UMS points rises of at least 10.

The standard of marking is just not good enough and means teachers lose faith in the examination system. The quality of examiners must be questionable, training and standardisation may be inadequate, and checking by team leaders may need tightening up. In the meantime, schools and students are paying large sums for re-marks because the boards are not competent enough.

The situation with GCSE modern languages was bordering on the farcical this year with severe and erratic marking of writing controlled assessments. Recent feedback meetings run by AQA have been attended by many confused and angry teachers.

Although I see this issue from my own, narrow perspective, I would tentatively
suggest that online standardisation is inadequate, more checking of performance by team leaders is needed and, in languages at GCSE, a wholesale re-working of the assessment regime is called for. Furthermore, if it proves too hard to mark essays accurately, then perhaps more objective forms of assessment should be considered. I would also add, finally, that Ofqual need to be more transparent about how they allocate grades. We pick up snippets here and there about how, for example, they use KS2 data when fixing the grade outcomes. So much for criterion referencing. We really should be told more about these things. After all, schools and taxpayers pay their salaries.

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