GCSE post results beware!

Exam officers across the country will be anticipating the reaction and follow-up to the GCSE results when all the academic staff return from their summer holidays. The following article from Schools Week – “GCSE results 2018: Grade 9 makes up over 4% of all results in England” (Pippa Allen-Kinross 02/09/2018) is one of many articles over recent months which reflect on the new marking process attached to the GCSE reform programme.


In the recent Telegraph article referenced on the iEOA website – ‘More than a million GCSE results could be open to challenge due to unreliable grading, experts warn’ (Camilla Turner 03/092018) there were lots of questions over marking accuracy using this new system. It is important to be fully informed about such issues because they may have an impact on your centres results and people’s perception of what to do and why. This is why we urge centres to tap into the knowledge and expertise of their exam officer community to provide a sound professional and level handed approach to this very sensitive time across the community.


Accusations start flying. Some talk about the continual speculative applications of centres, from certain sectors over enquiry about results which they feel puts excessive pressure on the post results services and contributes to this sense of suspicion echoes in articles mentioned above. However, how can any centre be accused of inappropriate action, if one does not know what to ask in the first place.


In contrast, centres accuse the system of being dominated by a fear factor with regard to enquires about results. If a centre challenge’s the exam results process they are told marks may go up or down. This is accepted by all, but the attached rhetoric and practice to this concept, is more of a bone of contention.


In one centre for example this year, after many years of getting successful GCSE results with their DT programme, suddenly their results came back two grades below what was expected. They had followed the same criteria with a stable experienced academic staff team over the years.


The question being asked was – ‘do we go for remarks knowing that if we do, under the existing procedures, to challenge specific student results in our group’ - this would then open the door to having the whole cohort remarked which might bring down the results of students in their group who were not involved in the first place.


Many centres feel this is not fair to those students who are not the focus for the original enquiry. However, can an exam body isolate out the marks and results of individuals when the section of course may have been marked by one marker. But of course, this may not be the case across different exam bodies and across different subjects were all scripts are scanned and may be distributed across different markers. This is common practice across the A level sector but clarity on what happens to GCSE scripts would help centres understand how scripts are processed and marked.


If scripts are being distributed to set markers and they can be identified electronically, then one could isolate out specific markers and therefore one could deal with individual student enquiries more effectively. We have a very robust and effective computer assessment process across all exam bodies so why not apply this insight to help serve the needs of students in centres.


One final thought. Every time there has been a major change in the education and exam system there has always been a rise in questions, enquiries and appeals, especially over results. While the whole system is in flux as the new system beds in there will be ‘teething problems’ at various levels but it is important for centres to make appropriate applications about results to the post results services in the interests their students welfare and not be distracted by responses attributed to reform issues.


If the exam system is to continue to secure the confidence of centres and the general public, it does need to continually review post result services to avoid any future systemic problems especially when bedding in new programmes.  Everyone wants the new GCSE programme to be successful and provide the appropriate foundation for those wishing to undertake A level and other programmes of study.


If you have any issues over GCSE results please get in touch in confidence - at ieoa.office@examofficers.org.uk - title '2018 GCSE results issues'.