The number of GCSE grades being changed when re-marked have rocketed by 52% because exam boards ‘did not follow the rules’, says the head of Ofqual.

The head of the body responsible for regulating exams, Sally Collier, told MPs said the problems occurred at the review stage and not with the original marks.

She also added that Ofqual is looking at imposing regulatory action on exam boards that have broken the rules and she insists that the rules will be followed when November’s exam re-sits are marked.

The enquiry from MPs follows news last week that nearly 74,000 GCSE grades were changed this year, compared with 48,000 in 2016. This is despite there being only 3% more exams being sat this year.

Also, Ofqual revealed that the number of ‘special considerations’ when marking GCSE exams had rocketed with the number of papers being awarded extra marks rising too.

Disappointed that GCSE grade changes had occurred

Ms Collier told MPs that she was disappointed that GCSE grade changes had occurred and had considered the reasons for this.

She pointed out that there appears to be no problem with the quality of those carrying out the original marking.

She told the committee: “We have looked at marking consistency across all exam boards and found marking is similar to last year. So nothing has happened to suggest there is a problem in the original marking quality.

“There’s been an issue with reviewing but the problem is not consistent across exam boards with some implementing it well and some boards who have not.”

She added that Ofqual is now reviewing what needs to be done for November’s re-sits and would not be drawn about the action likely to be taken against those exam boards who did not follow the rules.

However, she did say that the issue ‘will not happen again’.

There is a risk for schools when asking for a paper to be re-marked

Ms Collier also told MPs there is a risk for parents and schools when asking for a paper to be re-marked, particularly if the grade does not change.

The MPs were told by the chair of Ofqual, Roger Taylor, that changes introduced last year would only allow a GCSE market to be changed when there is a ‘clear marking error’ and not for a professional judgement difference between those marking papers.

He added that the move is aimed at preventing schools from gaining an advantage by being able to ‘buy a re-mark’.