Schools that deflated own grades can't appeal, says Ofqual

Schools that followed advice to mark down their own teacher grades will not be allowed to appeal because they did not make an error, Ofqual has said.

The regulator has confirmed today that schools “cannot raise concerns about its CAGs on the basis that another institution took a different approach, that different teachers could have come to a different judgement, or because the national process of standardisation did not operate as expected”.

As Schools Week revealed last week, the government has faced a fresh challenge over exam results from schools that followed advice to reduce grades before submission to exam boards in order to avoid grade inflation.

The Association of School and College Leaders wrote to Ofqual and the government earlier this week seeking action address concerns “as a matter of urgency”.

However, Ofqual has said today that schools and colleges that took into account the distribution of centre-assessment grades compared with grades achieved by the school’s previous students will have acted “within the guidance”.

“The taking into account of such information is not, therefore, an error,” its latest guidance reads.

There are limited grounds for appeal this year, but one of the grounds is if a head of centre has evidence that the school made a mistake when submitting its centre-assessment grades.

Ofqual said today that a school cannot raise concerns about its CAGs on the basis that “another institution took a different approach, that different teachers could have come to a different judgement, or because the national process of standardisation did not operate as expected”.

“Instead, the school or college would need to provide evidence of the original approach that it took and show why this was not appropriate, given the published guidance.

“Exam boards would need to be satisfied that the approach taken by the school or college was inappropriate, not that a different judgement about a CAG could have been reached, to allow an appeal on the basis that the original judgement was flawed.

“In such cases, the exam board will take into account the nature of the school’s or college’s mistake and how it came about when deciding whether it should take any follow up action against the school or college.”

It adds that “given the care” schools used to determine CAGs “we expect that it would be very unusual for them to identify such issues with CAGs”.

“A school or college that took into account the distribution of centre assessment grades compared with grades achieved by the centre’s students in previous years will have acted within the guidance. The taking into account of such information is not, therefore, an error.”

But David Blow, executive headteacher of the SESSET academy trust and a member of Ofqual’s exam advisory group, said: “This is completely unacceptable for the many schools and especially the many thousands of students who have been penalised as a result of schools quite rightly following [the guidance].

“I very much hope that people will stand up very publicly for those schools and students, and not accept this attempt to brush things under the carpet.”

Geoff Barton, ASCL general secretary, said this guidance “makes it clear that Ofqual asked schools and colleges to take into account the centre’s previous results when determining centre-assessed grades”.

“Many leaders will be relieved to have it stated so categorically that they were right to consider previous performance in a subject when determining a centre-assessed grade, and this will help them to deal with students and parents who are questioning this approach.

“But some will continue to be deeply upset that there is no mechanism to correct perceived differences in how different centres approached this process, and the impact this has had on some students. We will continue to represent all members’ views on this difficult issue in our ongoing discussions with Ofqual and the Department for Education.”