Educational alliance right to bring case, judge rules, but GCSE English results will not be overturned

The thousands of students who missed out on a grade C in GCSE English because of last summer’s grading fiasco will not have their papers regraded, a judge ruled today (Wednesday 13 February).

Following a three-day court hearing in December, Lord Justice Elias today ruled Ofqual had done the best it could with a qualification which was structured unfairly and, though the alliance was right to bring the case, grades would not be revised.

The judicial review was brought before the courts by an unprecedented educational alliance, which was drawn together because of the injustices in last summer’s marking. The shift in boundaries last summer meant young people who sat GCSE English in the summer needed more marks to get a C than those who did the exam in January.

Councillor Judith Blake, deputy leader of Leeds City Council with responsibility for children’s services 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.

“It is, therefore, totally unsatisfactory that this has been ignored and the young people will not be granted the results they worked hard to achieve and would have achieved had their exams been graded, like many thousands of other students, earlier in the year or in the previous year.

“Many young people have already missed out on apprenticeships and college courses, and have been forced into making decisions about their education and future because of this mistake.

“We were only able to get to this stage because of the collaboration between students themselves and their families, head teachers, local authorities and professional bodies across the country who decided to stand up for the young people who have been treated so unfairly. So it is especially disappointing that the result is not what we had hoped for.

“We will now be seeking legal advice and discussing with the other members of the consortium whether we will appeal against this decision.”

Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock said:

“This is a very frustrating outcome.

“We note that the judge accepted that the case exposed unfairness and that it was right that this was properly investigated in the court room. But that is no consolation for the thousands of students up and down the country who will have to continue to live with the consequences of this unfairness. We wish them every success in the future.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said:

“We are very disappointed with this decision.

“Grading decisions were unfair and an injustice was done to many thousands of pupils. While boundaries have not been restored, we hope this action will demonstrate to Ofqual and the exam boards that they should not act like this again.

“We are pleased the judge said we were right to bring the case, but nevertheless it is very sad not to be able to conclude the legal challenge with good news.

“As the judge acknowledged, the system was so flawed that the regulator had no choice but to be unfair to some group of students. Their choice was the lesser of two evils. The fact that a system cannot be managed without unfairness is a strong indictment. Let's have an end to political meddling in exams from any part of the political spectrum, meddling which only sets up these failures.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), the largest teachers’ union, said:

“This is a very disappointing outcome. It is very clear to the NUT and the other organisations who brought this action that a great injustice has been done.

“An estimated 10,000 students who took their English GCSE exam in June 2012 missed out on a C grade as a result of the decisions by the examination boards. These students had achieved exactly the same standard as their classmates who were awarded a C grade just a few months earlier.

“Parents, pupils and teachers will feel very let down.”

Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said:

“Naturally we’re very disappointed with the outcome. This is a lengthy judgment and we are currently considering it along with our fellow claimants and legal team. We still believe that thousands of young people had their exams unfairly downgraded last June in order to compensate for mistakes made earlier in the year.

“This was never about us, Ofqual or the awarding bodies. This is about the thousands of young people whose futures have been compromised by errors made by others.”


For media enquiries, please contact:

Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713

Email: emma.whittell@leeds.gov.uk