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Ofqual complaints about exam appeals

(31 Posts)
creamteas Fri 14-Feb-14 10:00:04

Ofqual seems to be arguing that schools are putting too many appeals in against exam grades. Although the reports don't seem to mention any research on who is asking for the appeals either. (If they used MN in August, they would see that many parents are making these decisions grin)

They seem to be suggesting that the main reasons to appeal a high D grade at GCSE or high B grade at A level are school league tables.

This is clearly nuts. The potential benefits to the candidate is far greater, as future careers/university places can rest on these divisions.

I really hope they don't use this as an excuse to reduce the access to appeal either by criteria or by increasing the fees as that could be really unfair.

tiggytape Fri 14-Feb-14 10:44:08

I haven't seen the article but I must admit to finding it surprising how many appeal now.
It used to be tha if you were predicted an A and got an E, you would appeal especially if the candidate felt the exam had gone well. In my Upper Sixth year, only one girl appealed her grades.

However people now seem to appeal just because they are 1,2 or 3 marks away from the next grade up and they are taking a punt on trying to get a better grade. Not necessarily because they feel their grade is wrong but just because it is frustrating to be so close to the grade boundary.

On the flip side, it is worrying that some of these "worth a punt" appeals succeed because it highlights that errors can happen and in turn that makes even more people want to appeal.

noblegiraffe Fri 14-Feb-14 10:54:19

Bollocks is it just league tables. The reason to appeal from a D to a C is of obvious benefit to the student. Also appealing from a B to an A means a student may then meet sixth form entry requirements.

Needmoresleep Fri 14-Feb-14 10:55:06

Not something we would have thought of doing until DS got a completely unexpected grade at GCSE. Since then we have had three exams remarked. Two resulted in him achieving significantly more marks and higher grades, eg far more than a mark or two in the margins. The other no change - he must have had a bad day.

They can tell schools to reduce the number of appeals but until schools and parents can feel confident about the results, I can't see things changing. Especially when popular University courses pay so much attention to grades.

prh47bridge Fri 14-Feb-14 10:58:37

If you read Ofqual's report you will find that they don't directly make the link between appeals and school league tables. They recognise that the candidate benefits as well. They do, however, point out that the most common appeals are where the candidate has a high D grade at GCSE or a high B grade at A level.

Many parents may be asking for appeals but it is the school or college that actually makes the appeal. And the most common appeals are around cases where pushing the grade up a level is of most benefit to the school.

Ofqual's concern is that there are too many speculative appeals hoping to push a candidate from just below a grade boundary to just above it with some heads describing it as a one way bet. The growing volume of appeals could overwhelm the system. They are also concerned that exam boards believe examiners, when dealing with appeals, look for extra marks to award the candidate.

prh47bridge Fri 14-Feb-14 11:02:21

Just to add, Ofqual point out that the type of school is a good predictor of which results are most likely to be appealed. Comprehensive schools and academies will mainly appeal for candidates who have just missed out on a C, independent and selective schools are more interested in appealing for candidates who have just missed out on A or A*.

creamteas Fri 14-Feb-14 11:12:31

Ofqual's concern is that there are too many speculative appeals hoping to push a candidate from just below a grade boundary to just above it with some heads describing it as a one way bet

Going by the MN threads, this is more likely to be parents are thinking this grin.

It is entirely possible that the exam system will be overwhelmed .This has been made more likely due to Gove abolishing Jan exams and his complete misunderstanding that linear assessment just means moving modular assessments to the end.

Changing the rules on appeals, is not likely to fix the problems though. I think that it will only be by reducing the high stakes on certain grades for candidates that will make a difference.

It will be interesting to see if the ending of student number controls at universities will make a difference to A level appeals. I think if universities can be more flexible with numbers overall, then then they will be more likely to take applicants with missed grades. It is certainly that students getting ABB are often taken against AAA offers in much higher numbers than they were.

senua Fri 14-Feb-14 11:21:05

I got a bit cross at appeals being portrayed as parents of pfb "having a punt" when we have had two occasions (and know of others in the same position) where results have been just plain wrong - eg forgetting to add in a section of the exam.

Shootingatpigeons Fri 14-Feb-14 11:51:48

Our Head is very clear in this. The number of appeals is directly linked to the inconsistency and in accuracy in marking. " English marking at all levels - GCSE, AS and A2 - is serially problematic, and this year the Trinity Group of schools, to which we belong, has reported significant concern at inconsistencies in the English marking across most Boards, whether inland or international. Although clarity of argument, reference to the text, paragraphing and proper use of grammar offer good evidence of levels of achievement, there is a degree of subjectivity in both English Literature and Language papers, as in many other subjects. Examinations are taken by so many students that Examination Boards often employ university graduates to do their marking. As a result, over the years, mark schemes have become more formulaic to give inexperienced markers (who have often never taught themselves) clear reference points. This has reinforced a tick-box approach which can reward the more pedestrian and safe responses over those which show greater flair and originality. This means that results can appear to be inconsistent, which is more dispiriting than the uniform shift in grade boundaries reported this year. We have also come to recognise that, sadly, Examination Board scrutiny of the whole process is often a lot less careful than you might expect with mistakes occurring with relative regularity. One of our unit grades in AS English Literature this year, for example, has risen from an E to an A grade and another from a D to an A."

I come from a generation where appeals were unheard of and I was reluctant to press for them but with both my DDs appeals have uncovered silly errors, ones RMT mark went up 10 UMS marks, there is no subjectivity about how you put a screw in a wall!! I was very pleased to see when my DD moved there for sixth form that they had a room reserved for pupils who were unhappy with their marks to go and consult with a teacher and if they want, to send for the script to determine whether they should appeal. At her previous school there was a culture of denial and parents had to go and put pressure on when something seemed amiss. I also have a friend with a DD at a well known boarding school who was only told that her mark made no sense after term started and it was too late to do anything, being overseas it had not occurred to the parent that you could appeal, let alone that it has become commonplace. I think this now ill advised reluctance to appeal is still quite common.

I listened to the OFQUAL woman on Radio 4 this morning and it made my blood boil. Especially the bit about "all the markers are teachers and they care about every pupil". Erm no, they use our postgrads to mark, some are not even UK nationals, and though English speaking there are significant cultural differences in how Americans will approach a script, and they are paid for just 20 minutes per A level question........

These marks can make a huge difference to a pupils future and OFQUALs disingenuous attempt to shift the blame is shameful.

prh47bridge Fri 14-Feb-14 13:30:35

I got a bit cross at appeals being portrayed as parents of pfb "having a punt"

I don't think that is how they are being portrayed. Everyone admits that mistakes are sometimes made and an appeals system needs to correct this. However, there is increasing evidence that a significant proportion of appeals are speculative, hoping for the few additional marks to get across the grade boundary.

they use our postgrads to mark

A tiny minority (less than 1%) of people involved in marking exam papers are "general markers". They are only allowed to mark simple, highly constrained questions with clearly defined answers. All other marking is done by examiners. An examiner must have at least three terms recent teaching experience in the relevant subject and level. They must have appropriate qualifications in the relevant subject (usually a degree and teaching qualification). They must be UK resident.

Shootingatpigeons Fri 14-Feb-14 14:17:27

prh No, they are definitely using our postgrads to mark A level History questions, very few teachers in the country would have the knowledge to mark on that part of the curriculum, the history of another country / culture. Since several exams boards have modules on Russia, China etc I can only assume it is not that uncommon. And yes they are definitely using US postgrads in the absence of enough UK postgrads, who are in the minority on the course.

Shootingatpigeons Fri 14-Feb-14 14:24:40

And A level History questions are not and should not be tight and constrained even allowing for formulaic marking schemes. Indeed in my experience amongst my DDs peers the marks for History are amongst those most likely to throw up unpredictable sets of results. A couple of years ago one History AS module threw up multiple Es amongst students right across west London schools who were otherwise straight A* students. They all managed to pick up at resits and A2 and some are now actually reading History at Oxbridge. It is instances like this that undermine the credibility of the exam boards and encourage parents to see appeals as the norm rather than exception if a grade does not meet predictions.

Shootingatpigeons Fri 14-Feb-14 14:32:25

It may however be that they had teaching qualifications / experience as well as their degrees since our US postgrads tend to be older and have spent many years accumulating credits across continents, often teaching to fund overseas stays. I still think though that they have a different cultural approach to academic work, possibly one that is more demanding of rigor (sic) wink

prh47bridge Fri 14-Feb-14 15:42:18

My list of requirements did not specify that the qualifications must be UK. But all three examining boards seem to have the same requirements to be an examiner.

very few teachers in the country would have the knowledge to mark on that part of the curriculum

You mean apart from those that teach A level History? If they can teach it they can mark it. According to Ofqual 62% of examiners are currently teaching. And 92% of examiners have a degree or doctorate in their subject. Are you seriously suggesting that these people don't have the knowledge to mark A level papers?

tiggytape Fri 14-Feb-14 16:20:15

I got a bit cross at appeals being portrayed as parents of pfb "having a punt"

I wasn't implying that all appeals fall into this category. But a lot do - and it is a growing trend. A one way bet as someone else pointed out.

Every year at results time, people post here to say "my DS was expected to get a B in Chemistry and got a B but is only 2 points off an A. Should we appeal?"

And they mostly get told that they've got nothing to lose as it is highly unlikely they will lose so many points in a remark as to drop a grade (which is a risk for those in the middle of the grade bracket).

These parents have no reason to think the exam was marked incorrectly.
They have no issue with the grade awarded and accept it is a true reflection of what their child was always expected to get all along.
But being 2 marks away from a better grade seems to create such a degree of frustration that they just don't want to leave it alone even though logic would dictate that people can be 1 mark off an 'A' yet not deserve an 'A'.

Shootingatpigeons Fri 14-Feb-14 16:45:30

prh well that seems to be what the exam boards think since they are employing our postgrads. Last year 4 of them, 3 US Nationals.

I can only speculate on their operational reasons but very few History teachers will have ever studied the history of countries like China, Russia and Africa, there are significant cultural misapprehensions and stereotypes to overcome, some admittedly also entertained by the exam boards (and come to that UK media and government), from what I have seen of the curriculum and mark schemes.

I have the utmost respect for History teachers in this country and for the way in which History is taught (providing Gove doesn't get his way). However I am sure the vast majority will admit that when faced with the teaching of the parts of the History curriculum that concern the history of countries like Russia and China they start from ground zero. The Examiners employed to mark most parts of the History A levels papers are very unlikely to have either the knowledge or the experience of teaching those parts of the curriculum because teaching the history of non European countries and Russia are relatively recent welcome innovations. I speak as a History graduate who experienced something of a road to Damascus because of those preconceptions and stereotypes when I actually did engage in postgraduate study of another culture's history. I may have a 2.1 in History from an RG university but would not have been in a position to mark exam papers prior to that study, even if I had read a few books and covered the curriculum. I am sure who ever advises the exam boards on the curriculum for those modules a would make the exam boards aware of the issue. It is particularly important when the exam may be taken by candidates who have a very thorough understanding of that culture's history because they were raised with it.

harrassedswlondonmum Fri 14-Feb-14 16:49:21

Appeals were unheard of in my day - but then in those days all you got was a grade and no information about marks for papers or units, or any idea of what the grade boundaries are. No surprise surely that knowing your mark was say 2 marks below the grade boundary encourages an appeal? There's a good chance of getting the higher grade and not much of a risk of the grade being lowered.

Shootingatpigeons Fri 14-Feb-14 16:57:12

My DD did actually study a AS module on Africa. I encouraged her to read around the subject, they have access to resources like JSTOR where they can get access to the latest academic thinking on issues. She therefore did bring to her A level lessons arguments and evidence her History teacher had not himself previously considered. One would hope that an examiner would be familiar with all the strands of academic thinking on an issue.

Shootingatpigeons Fri 14-Feb-14 17:11:13

tiggy But given all the evidence that there is inconsistency and inaccuracy in marking as per our Heads words above, then appealing isn't taking a punt, it is a sensible precaution to make sure your DCs future is not forever affected by that inadequacy in the quality control of the exam board's marking. If teachers were not seeing the manifestation of this in terms of changes to marks on a very regular basis, and indeed getting back scripts that have clearly been unfairly marked down, they would not be advising parents to fork out for remarks, it would be a waste of money. With both my DDs's GCSEs, AS and A levels the marks of entire subject cohort have been appealed, or coursework remoderated, at the school's expense. They are not doing that for the sake of taking a punt at gaining a few marks at grade boundaries. They are doing it because experienced teachers have appealed results at the boundaries, have looked at the remarked scripts, and then submitted the rest because something had clearly gone badly wrong. The loss of confidence in marking is very apparent from the Head's words I quoted.

tiggytape Fri 14-Feb-14 18:49:00

because something had clearly gone badly wrong

Yes absolutely - those are the ones expected to appeal. I have never denied that many people appeal because they have real reason to doubt the outcomes.

But, that does not detract from a large and growing number of speculative appeals based on no real doubts at all.

Even people who know very little about the marking process - certainly not enough to view it with any suspicion - do appeal purely because they can see their child is near the next grade up and feel it is worth a go.
They don't do it because they have grave doubts about the ability of a UK national to mark papers by pupils drawing on first hand knowledge of the Russian culture and the different but equally valid perspective that may bring.

They do it purely because "he nearly got an A so we have nothing to lose"
They don't know who marks the papers. The grade received matches the grade expected. The subject may be a much less subjective one than history. But the fact they are "only 2 marks away from an A" means they want a risk-free re-count because they may end up with an A and will be no worse off if they don't.

Shootingatpigeons Fri 14-Feb-14 20:02:44

tiggy I take your point that there is probably now a culture of "what's to lose" but it is still a culture of the exam boards making. People may not have the specific knowledge but it wouldn't be happening if there were not the underlying problem that marks do get changed, and often as a result of informed appeals, not punts. I was as reluctant as the next child of the 70s to jump on the bandwagon with my DDs and certainly didn't see any point in challenging DDs B for RMT, it wasn't a game changer anyway, but her teacher was sure it was an injustice given that 60% of the marks went to her project which he was convinced met the marking criteria for A*. It was actually the written paper, only 40% of they marks, literally on how to screw something to a wall, where it had been wrongly marked by 10 UMS, and jumped her grade to an A*.

But in the 70s there were fewer of us taking GCSEs and A levels so easier to assure the quality of examiners, exams, for good or ill, were less demanding in terms of individual critical thinking, and I don't remember anyone having the sort of surprising and upsetting variations in achieved versus predicted, nor did it matter as much, offers for History at RG unis were BCC!!! It just is not comparable not that it will stop Gove / the daily hate trying.

What worries me is that this is precursor to making it more expensive / harder to appeal and it will be another initiative that further disadvantages the disadvantaged, the ones who don't have the monetary or cultural capital to challenge the exam boards.

senua Sat 15-Feb-14 08:47:41

The "nothing to lose" argument is not totally true. It used to be that marks could only go up but they changed the rules to allow for re-marks to reduce marks too (although I understand the argument that a close-to-the-top-of-the-band mark will probably either go up or stay in the same band, it's unlikely to go down).

What gets me is the lack of common sense. For one of DD's GCSEs she got solid Bs across all papers - apart from one paper which was a D. We got that remarked and it came back as two grades higher, another B would you believe. If I was in charge of Quality Control they would investigate an anomaly like that and double-check it before publishing.
How on earth can we have a system where they forget to add in the marks of a section of the paper - that is simply sloppiness in procedure; proper systems should be able to eradicate that.

DoctorDonnaNoble Sat 15-Feb-14 08:56:04

Given that historical with English results we have rejected an entire year's worth of results (The penultimate year of KS3 SATs), we take all our results with a pinch of salt. There are students we encourage to appeal as their result is surprising. However, we are now seeing more doing after encouragement from parents. In English, the one or two below a grade rarely go up. The marking is subjective so there we go. However, I know of A Level papers that have gone from E grade to A!
When I applied to be a General Studies marker, I told the board that I taught Year 12, they gave me A2 papers to mark!

JodieGarberJacob Sat 15-Feb-14 09:09:47

Six years ago at the comprehensive my dds attended you needed just a pass at GCSEs to get into the 6th form. 3 years ago you needed Cs in 5 subjects, now you need Bs in the subjects you want to study unless it's Maths or a Science and then you need an A. Less than a C in Maths or English you won't get in at all. Not surprising at the amount of re-marks if other schools are this picky!

Vanillachocolate Sat 15-Feb-14 09:52:42

Surely DC and parents have the right to appeal and nothing should stand in the way, in the spirit of fairness and respect of due process. If DC and parents feel the marking is wrong they should be able to appeal and there is no need to speculate on intentions.

What is definitely wrong is to continually move the goal post and apply political pressure to mark down GCSEs as the kids are sitting the exams and couldn't possibly do anything to ' improve standards'. It is the Gove-rnment unfair policies and lack of professional integrity of exam boards/Ofqual, changing mark schemes and boundaries on the go under political pressure that causes the appeals. Educational establishment should have accountability to the children. Education is for them.

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