Exams regulator Ofqual has reminded pupils and parents they don’t need legal advice to appeal against exam grades, following criticism of law firms offering their services.
Students unhappy with their results this week will first have the opportunity to ask their schools to check for administration errors, before asking them to escalate it to exam boards to look at the grade if they are still not satisfied.
Unions sounded the alarm after consumer firm Claimsmiths launched a service charging upwards of £1,500 to help students who are unhappy with their A-level and GCSE grades. Other firms are advertising similar services.
Reports on the issue have prompted Ofqual to update its appeals guidance to remind pupils and parents that they “do not need to take legal advice to help you to submit an appeal”.
A spokesperson said: “There have been some media reports about law firms offering their services to parents who may be thinking about appealing their child’s teacher-assessed grades. Parents and students do not need to take legal advice to appeal.”
If you are concerned your grade is wrong, you can appeal. Watch our short explainer video to learn more.
— Ofqual (@ofqual) August 11, 2021
Claimsmith’s website states the review and appeals process is a “one-chance only to correct inaccurate grades”.
It goes on to state that the process is “time critical” and “requires an understanding of the teacher assessed grades process and available grounds”.
The process is listed as costing £2,500 plus VAT for a review up to four grades, and the appeal is costed at £1,500 plus VAT. Additional grades cost £250.
According to the Law Society Gazette, the firm said it would guide students “through the process, removing much of the emotional stress and anxiety by conducting it methodically and fairly”.
But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL school leaders’ union, said it was “sad and worrying that some members of the legal profession now apparently see this situation as fair game”.
“Inevitably only a privileged minority of parents will be in a position to be able to afford to employ law firms and schools and colleges that receive such challenges will be deeply concerned by the prospect of having their expert judgments picked over by lawyers.”
Conservative MP Robert Halfon, chair of the education select committee, has also expressed fears, telling the Telegraph earlier this week that he worried the “well-heeled” would benefit because they will “know how to work” the “quite complex” appeals system.
“What will happen is that if your mum or dad is a QC, chances are you will appeal and know how to work it. We need to make sure there is a level playing field.”
Claimsmiths was contacted for comment.