Colleges challenge fewer exam grades than schools – with less success

Colleges are significantly less likely to challenge GCSE and A-level exam grades than schools – and they are more likely to be rejected when they do.

The exams regulator Ofqual looked at the number of enquiries about students’ results which were filed by schools and colleges following last summer’s exams.

It found that between them, schools and colleges challenged one GCSE exam result out of every 16, and one in 13 A-levels.

But the figures were much higher just amongst FE, sixth form and tertiary colleges — which challenged just one GCSE result in 22, and one A-level grade in every 19.

Independent schools had the highest proportion of challenges, querying one GCSE in 11 and one in eight A-level exam results.

What’s more, the report discovered that GCSE, FE, sixth form and tertiary colleges “have the lowest percentage of grades changed” at just 17 per cent.

In comparison, secondary selective schools had a 25 per cent success rate with grade challenges, while independent schools managed a rate of 23.1 per cent.

And for A-levels, FE, sixth form and tertiary colleges again experienced the lowest percentage of grade changes at a mere 15.1 per cent, even though independent schools, city academies, secondary comprehensive/middle schools and ‘other’ schools have “similar rates of grade changes” of between 16.1 per cent and 16.6 per cent.

Ofqual said it did “not have any information which might explain these differences”.

It costs institutions up to £50 to appeal each individual exam paper, although there is no charge if the appeal is successful, which can perhaps explain why the generally wealthier independent schools have more success.

Catherine Sezen, the Association of Colleges’ senior policy manager for 14-19 and curriculum, said of the Ofqual figures: “Colleges always act in the best interest of their students and where they think there is a case to answer, they will suggest querying the grade.”

She added: “We may see an increase in the number of exam grade queries at GCSE level over the coming years as the system adjusts to the standards that will be expected to achieve higher grades.”

Julie Swan, Ofqual’s executive director for general qualifications, said: “It’s up to each school or college to decide the extent to which it uses the marking review provisions.”

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