Hackney schools in legal challenge over GCSE downgrading

Four Hackney schools are supporting a legal challenge against the downgrading of GCSE results this summer, as part of a coalition that calls for the papers to be re-graded immediately.

The schools are part of an alliance that has served legal papers on the exam regulator Ofqual, and exam boards AQA and Edexcel, detailing their case for a re-grading of GCSE English papers sat in the summer.

In October, four Hackney schools – Bridge Academy, Haggerston School, Cardinal Pole School and Stoke Newington School – joined over 100 others to demand that the June exams be re-graded using the January grade boundaries.

Hackney Council is a party to this challenge on behalf of all four schools (Haggerston, Cardinal Pole, Bridge Academy, and Petchey Academy.)

None of the schools are named as individual claimants. As this case is of national significance, the council joined as a party to proceedings, and is acting on behalf of the affected schools.

“It’s not fair on any student to change the boundaries half way through the course,” said a local teacher, speaking on condition of anonymity to the Hackney Citizen.

The schools are arguing the change “disproportionately affected some students more than others” and that some students suffered a ‘massive’ change in their grades.

The coalition says that schools and students relied on January’s grade boundaries when preparing for the June exams, and that no warning was given for the boundary change which left students with lower grades than they were expecting.

The coalition includes 167 pupils and is supported by 150 schools and 42 councils across England.

The statement of claim says: “The decisions have prejudiced the life chances of thousands of children. The immediate effects of the decisions include children being unable to progress in education, losing vocational opportunities and jobs and being unable to gain employment.”

“The decisions are incompatible with the most elementary principles of fairness, rationality and good administration. They are unlawful and should be quashed.”

The National Union of Teachers called the legal challenge the “next step in the campaign to rectify the huge injustice suffered by many pupils, teachers and schools over this year’s English GCSE fiasco.”

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT, accused the government of ‘political manipulation’: “There is now not a shadow of a doubt that this year’s GCSE grade boundaries were changed without warning half way through the school year purely out of a fear that too many pupils were succeeding.

“The Welsh Government has acted in a wholly appropriate manner and ordered a re-grade of the exams affected,” she said. “It is time this Government followed suit.”

More than 2,000 pupils in Wales have had their exams re-graded, providing them with better results in their GCSE English Language papers.

Ms Blower added: “This is an issue that we cannot let be swept under the carpet. The case has to be made for those students and schools who have been cheated of the grades for which they worked so hard.”

Note: this story was amended on Tuesday 5 March 2013.



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