Council fight for pupils in court

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Bedford Borough Council, along with pupils, schools, professional teaching bodies and other local authorities from across the country, have been fighting for fairness in the High Court over the GCSE English grading system this year.

In a three-day hearing, lawyers for the alliance argued that Ofqual and exam boards AQA and Edexcel have been guilty of a ‘statistical fix’ which has harmed the prospects of many thousands of young people across the country.

The alliance is asking the High Court to declare unlawful the decision taken by Ofqual and the exam boards to increase grade boundaries dramatically for GCSE English between the January and June sittings, despite there being no corresponding change in the difficulty of the papers.

In one AQA exam paper, for example, the mark needed to achieve a C rose from 43 to 53 marks out of 80 from January to June, yet there was no change whatsoever in the difficulty of the paper.

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 children affected by the decisions were entitled to be treated in a fair, consistent and rational manner by the defendants. They were not.”

Mayor of Bedford Dave Hodgson said: “Bedford Borough Council joined this legal action as we want to support our young people who have been unfairly penalised by these crude, unjustifiable in-year changes to GCSE grade boundaries.

“A strong case has been made in the High Court, and we hope justice and common sense will prevail.”

In Bedford Borough, 1,889 students took an English GCSE, of which 417 were awarded a D grade.

A judgment is expected early in the New Year.