Complaints against leading exam boards double in two years

The number of complaints received by Ofqual about England’s largest exam boards has nearly doubled over the past two years, latest figures show.

Statistics released by the exams regulator today reveal that there were 143 complaints made against AQA, Pearson and OCR in 2018-19.

This is a rise of 54 per cent from the 93 complaints received last year and a 91 per cent rise in the number of complaints received in 2016-17 – 75.

The three exam boards issue millions of certificates every year. In 2018-19, AQA issued the largest number of certificates, handing out 3,264,990. Meanwhile, Pearson awarded 2,438,670 and OCR gave out 795,490.

Exam boards have come under increasing scrutiny in recent months after an entire Edexcel A-level maths paper was circulated on social media before the exam.

A further maths A-level paper also had to be replaced this summer after it emerged that a packet containing copies of the exam had been opened and there was an alleged leak of AQA’s GCSE religious studies exam paper, sat by pupils in May.

There were 71 complaints made against AQA in 2018-19, up from the 47 made the previous year. In 2016-17 there were 37 complaints.

Despite the rise in the number of complaints, those that were upheld and partially upheld has actually stayed relatively consistent. Four of the 71 complaints this year were upheld, down from the five upheld the year before and equivalent to the four in 2016-17.

AQA said that the figures “reflect the fact we’re the UK’s biggest exam board”, with a rise in the number of schools choosing the exam board for GCSEs over the last few years.

Charlie Hardie, AQA’s head of customer services, said: “We take all complaints seriously and help Ofqual investigate ones they receive – and we’re pleased that the number they’ve upheld is consistently very small by any standards.”

Ofqual describes a complaint as “an expression of dissatisfaction about an organisation or qualification we regulate”. However it does not provide further details of what the complaints were about.

Ofqual says that the figures reveal the number of complaints upheld because “sometimes the number of complaints received is not a reliable indicator of an awarding organisation’s performance”.

Pearson, the parent company of Edexcel, had 39 complaints levelled against it in 2018-19, two of which were upheld. Last year 18 complaints were made against Pearson and in 2016-17 there were 27 complaints. Both years saw one complaint upheld.

Meanwhile, in 2018-19 there were 33 complaints made against OCR, two of which were upheld. Last year, 28 complaints were made, three of which were upheld, and in 2016-17 11 complaints were received, none of which were upheld.

A spokesperson from Ofqual confirmed that they would not be releasing further details of the complaints that were upheld.

Pearson and OCR were contacted for comment.