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Exams must be equal to all

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28 September 2012
Exams must be equal to all For many of us, this summer has been all about London 2012; the incredible achievements of Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis, the endurance and strength of Paralympians Dave Weir and Ellie Simmonds, and the amazing contribution of the thousands of volunteers who made our Games so special.

But for one group of young people, the Olympic values of fair play, hard work and just rewards have been called into question by the actions of exam boards and regulators who shifted the GCSE goalposts between January and June of this year.

All across the country, thousands of young people who sat their exams in June were given D grades in GCSE English, whilst friends who had sat the equivalent exam in January and achieved exactly the same mark, got C grades. In Lewisham, there are 163 pupils with D grades in English who, had they sat the exam in January would have got a C.

How on earth can this be fair?

The Conservative Education Secretary Michael Gove wants to wash his hands of the problem, claiming that whilst he has spent the whole of the last year lamenting standards in our schools, he brought no pressure to bear on exam boards or the regulator.

This Tory-Liberal Government may not be prepared to fight against this injustice, but others are.

Last week Labour-run Lewisham Council started a legal challenge against the exams regulator, OFQUAL and the exam boards AQA and Edexcel, seeking a judicial review of their decision to shift the GSCE grade boundaries by 10 marks within the space of 6 months. Whilst some minor tweaking of grade boundaries is normal, this radical change is unprecedented. There was no warning and schools and pupils were consequently unable to prepare for it.

The legal action led by Lewisham was supported by an alliance of 180 pupils, 113 schools, 36 councils (of different political persuasions) and 7 professional bodies. St Matthew Academy in Blackheath has been at the front of this campaign – wanting to put right the wrong that has be done to 31 students in their school alone. Other great Lewisham schools such as Trinity, Conisborough College and Bonus Pastor have also backed the action.

We teach our young people that hard work will be rewarded. We teach them to be honest about when mistakes are made and to make amends. We also teach them to fight against injustice when they see it.

Now it’s time for OFQUAL and the exam boards to respect these very same values. It is time for an immediate regrading of the exams sat in June. There should be an independent inquiry into how this situation arose and how it can be prevented from ever happening again.

It is not fair that our young people are paying the price for the mistakes of others. I am pleased that Lewisham Council is leading the charge on this and wish them every success.

This article was originally written for the South London Press 

You can sign the petition for the Government to set up a full inquiry into the shift in GCSE grade boundaries here

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