News story

Marking mistakes must be corrected, legitimate marks should stand

Ofqual response to statement issued by HMC/NAHT following consultation about marking reviews, appeals, grade boundaries and Code of Practice

HMC news release

Julie Swan, Acting Executive Director for General Qualifications, Ofqual said:

“Our proposals were put together by talking to teachers, schools and others who have expressed concerns about the existing Enquiries about Results system, including HMC and NAHT. They were also informed by a significant piece of empirical research.

The concept that students are either given a ‘right mark’ or a ‘wrong mark’ is a misunderstanding – often more than one mark can be a fair mark for a script. There is no question that marking mistakes should be avoided and corrected if they happen, but differences of professional judgement are a very different matter.

The current system can lead some students to get a higher mark on review, even when the first mark was entirely consistent with the mark scheme. That is unfair to those who do not seek a review. Of course where the first result is not reasonable – and the mark scheme was applied incorrectly – these errors should be corrected and a new mark awarded.

Review requests are typically greater in high-volume, high-stakes subjects, such as English and maths. And we know that many enquiries are made just below key grade boundaries. In 2015, around 80% of candidates who asked for their GCSE English result to be reviewed saw no change in their grade. In the majority of cases (62.8%) where a grade change did occur, it resulted from a change in marks of 3 or less. In GCSE maths, 86% who asked for a review did not see their grade change, and where they did, 87.5% resulted from a change in marks of 3 or less. So mark changes on review are typically small.

Some of these mark changes will have reflected errors in marking. But in many cases, students will have been unfairly advantaged through a legitimate mark being replaced with a different, often higher, mark. We want the review and appeal system to focus squarely on errors. The initial picture from our full consultation suggests that a majority of respondents agree.

Given the above, it is misleading to suggest that the number of enquiries is a barometer for the overall quality of marking. Our position is clear - marking needs to be as good as it can be. But for some meaningful assessment there will never be only one ‘right’ mark. Removing the Code of Practice will enable us better to hold exam boards to account through the application of our Conditions. And this will make sure the new system remains transparent and easy to understand and navigate.

Our objective remains to deliver a marking, review and appeals system built on the professionalism of thousands of markers, most of whom are teachers, which is fair and robust for all.”

Julie Swan, Acting Executive Director for General Qualifications and Cath Jadhav, Associate Director, Standards and Comparability, explain more.

In this video

Chris Shadforth, Associate Director, Communications looks at some of the numbers in his blog