Council threatens court battle over Gove GCSE shambles

Article published: Tuesday, September 25th 2012

Manchester City Council is backing legal action over this summer’s GCSE grades scandal that may have caused hundreds of the city’s young people to miss out on getting required grades.

Education Secretary Michael Gove. Photograph: Steve Punter

The council and 36 other local authorities along with pupils, teaching unions and 113 schools have served national exam regulator Ofqual with papers announcing that they intend to mount a judicial review of their refusal to regrade the exams.

The exam regulator has seven days to respond to the ‘pre action’ letter sent last Friday. Papers were also sent to major exam boards AQA and Edexcel.

Thousands of pupils were left disappointed when it emerged that exam boards had secretly changed marking criteria halfway through the year to make some exams taken in June harder to pass than those taken in January.

For some exams the grade difference was as high as ten marks, causing many to miss out on vital C grades needed to enter college.

And at least 143 schools in England were left threatened with closure or forced conversion to Academies after failing to hit GCSE targets, according to the Association of School and College Leaders.

Furious pupils, teachers and parents accused the government of moving the goalposts as the GCSE success rate fell for the first time ever, and the Welsh devolved government ordered a full remark.

Ofqual stood by the grades however, arguing that January’s GCSE results had been too generous. Conservative education secretary Michael Gove, who wants to radically overhaul GCSEs, claimed the Welsh government’s decision to order a remark would “undermine confidence” in the crucial exam.

The unprecedented chaos led the Manchester College to cut its entry requirements and accept pupils who received a D in English this year, amid fears that 500 students with provisional offers would miss out on A level and national diploma courses.

Manchester’s schools avoided the national drop in grades, however. A total of 53.5 per cent of children across the city earned at least five A* – Cs, an improvement from 51 per cent last year.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, the city’s lead councillor for children’s services Afzal Khan said, “Having reviewed the legal advice received so far in relation to this, we have decided to join the group action.

“Our motivation for doing so is to ensure no individual pupils or Manchester schools have been adversely affected as a result of taking exams this summer. At the moment, from what our schools are telling us, they believe there is a good chance they may have been.

“If this proves to be the case then this is wholly unfair and we will do whatever we can to support pupils and our schools in making sure this is put right.”

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