Headteacher claims exam ruling morally indefensible

The headteacher of Boston Spa High School says he is “bitterly disappointed” over a court ruling which refused to regrade exam papers for pupils over last summer’s GCSE English “fiasco”.

An alliance of schools, councils and teaching unions had led a High Court battle to get the GCSE English papers revised following last year’s controversial grading.

But Lord Justice Elias, sitting at the High Court in London yesterday, ruled that Ofqual had done the best it could with a qualification which was structured unfairly.

The judge added that although he believed the group was right to raise the issue, the papers would not be revised.

Speaking about the ruling yesterday, Christopher Walsh, headteacher at Boston Spa school said: “I am bitterly disappointed at this decision which I see as morally indefensible.

“Children who provided the same quality of work in the same year and for the same exam board should have been awarded the same grade.

“It has been a terrible injustice.”

The group was granted a court hearing after challenging the way in which grade boundaries were moved in GCSE English between January and June.

They claimed that exam boards moved the goalposts in order to make it more difficult to achieve C grades.

Mr Walsh said the way grade boundaries moved meant 44 of his students had not been given a C despite producing C grade work.

The action was taken against the exam boards AQA and EdExcel and regulator Ofqual who all denied they acted unlawfully or unfairly.

Mr Walsh added that the decision would lead to a negative impact on the exam board regulator.

He said: “I think that although the exam boards and the judge have found in favour this time of Ofqual, I think that they have lost the confidence of the teaching profession, that they have lost the confidence of the families and that they have lost the confidence of the examination candidates.”

Mr Walsh added that the alliance would now consider appealing the decision.

Coun Judith Blake, deputy leader of Leeds City Council, the body which funded the legal challenge, said: “I am bitterly disappointed in this judgement.

“Thousands of young people’s futures have been badly affected by this and now it seems their plight has been ignored.

“Although Lord Justice Elias acknowledged that we were right to raise the judicial review, we feel it is totally unreasonable to blame the modular system for these unfair results.

“Our legal challenge was thorough and showed clearly the unfairness of the exam boards’ decision to change the GCSE grade boundaries mid-year and the devastating impact this has had on thousands of young people across the country.