The number of requests from schools and colleges for ‘special consideration’ for marking exam papers has rocketed, the regulator Ofqual has revealed.

The organisation also says that the number of requests being approved has also increased.

As a result, the number of A-level and GCSE papers being awarded extra marks this year rose following a number of major summer events affecting pupils including the Grenfell fire and the Manchester Arena terror attack.

As a result, exam boards dealt with 607,110 requests from colleges and schools which is a 19% increase on last year’s figure.

Of these applications, 94% of them, or 567,795, were granted. That’s an increase of 18% from 2016.

Ofqual says it is reviewing the system

As well as tragic events in the summer, Ofqual says it is reviewing the system since a move for pupils to take all of their exams when two-year courses end has also led to the increase.

In a report, the exams regulator for England says a variety of factors may have had an influence on the increase in numbers for special consideration applications being made.

Ofqual says: “Those candidates affected were previously required to take a minimum 40% of their assessment for either a qualification award for an adjustment in marks to be applied to the final grade of the candidate.

“According to guidance, from last summer the student must completed 25% of their assessment to be considered.”

The report points out that this move was aimed at responding to a switch to linear qualifications and, in part, the organisation responding to events taking place over the summer.

The move away from modular exams

They say the shift away from taking modular exams that were taken throughout a course and to a system for end of course examinations means there is no opportunity for students and pupils to re-sit their papers any more.

The report highlights that the maximum that is given usually in exceptional cases is 5% and this will include issues of the student’s terminal illness, or that for a family member , or of a close family relative dying.

The most common issues for the awarding of extra marks are for things like illness on exam day, recently broken limbs or circumstances that are out of the student’s control.

The Association of School and College Leaders’ curriculum and assessment specialist, Suzanne O’Farrell, said: “Factors responsible for requests for special considerations increasing include changes to the examination system which means A-levels and GCSEs are sat over a short period in summer.

“We welcome that the exam system is flexible enough to take into account appalling incidents so young people are not being disadvantaged in exams which are important to their future.”

The report also highlights that in 2014 there were 439,950 requests for special consideration with 406,270 being approved; in 2015 there were 485,775 requests, of which 449,240 were approved.


More information

The Ofqual report on the increasing number of special consideration requests being made can be read on their website.