Anxiety over grades could lead to a significant increase in legal challenges.
The decision by the Department for Education (DfE) to close all schools and colleges last year resulted in the cancellation of GCSE, AS and ‘A’ level exams. The DfE, with Ofqual, decided that students who were due to sit their public exams would instead be awarded teacher assessed grades (TAGs). The replacement with TAGs has led to a huge amount of anxiety and worry for students and their parents.
A recent poll by Mumsnet shows that 54% of parents believe that this year’s system is unfair, and a survey of teachers by TES indicated that only 52% of teachers believed that the grading process in their school was fair and that it would give students the grades they deserved. Consequently, it is anticipated that there will be a sharp increase in the numbers of appeals against grades.
The general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders recently informed the House of Commons Education Committee that some parents are making threats of legal action against teachers. Richard Sheriff, president of ASCL, has warned of parents with “pointy-elbows and lawyer friends”. ASCL is now bringing in its own lawyers to support its members.
In response, Claimsmiths has launched its own exam appeals service to provide legal advice to students on their grounds of appeal. The specialist team of experienced litigators includes Mark Gleeson, a data protection and freedom of information expert. The team will use, amongst other things, data rights legislation to obtain critical evidence to support appeals.
Gleeson comments: “The assessment process is hugely important to students. The Government, Ofqual and the teaching profession cannot seriously deny that mistakes will be made during the assessment process. Students who are unfairly awarded lower grades potentially will be saddled with them for the rest of their lives.”
Ofqual’s own data for the 2019-20 academic year shows that 80% of GCSE and A-level appeals resulted in a change in grade and that 33% were changed by one grade. There were 15 cases where the appeal led to a change of six grades and 85 cases where there was a four grade change. It isn’t just innocent administrative or procedural mistakes, or a difference in academic judgement, that may affect grades. In some cases, misconduct by teaching staff occurs, too. Ofqual has recognised that bias and discrimination exist and has issued guidance to teachers on how to make objective judgements.
There is also a significant financial issue for students in obtaining the correct grade. New research by the DfE shows the link between GCSE attainment and earnings over a person’s lifetime. Those who perform just one GCSE grade better than their counterparts across nine subjects have been shown to earn an average of £207,000 more throughout their lives. Those who achieved just one grade higher than their counterparts in one subject saw an increase in their lifetime earnings by an average of £23,000.
The service is available at claimsmiths.co.uk/appeal-exam-results/
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FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:-
Jamie White at Overture London. T: +44(0)20 3817 8383. E: [email protected]
NOTE TO EDITORS /
Claimsmiths is a focused disputes practice for individuals and part of Brandsmiths, a specialist law firm for IP-rich businesses. Claimsmiths is designed to meet the rapidly growing demand for an outcomes-focused approach in consumer actions. The Claimsmiths team has already grown to a team of 10 litigators, including some of the leading data protection, finance and professional negligence lawyers in the UK. We are highly experienced in running a range of claims, which includes precedent setting litigation.