By Andrew Redmond Barr
The UK Education Secretary Michael Gove has criticised his Welsh counterpart for ordering that disputed GCSE exam papers are regraded.
Mr Gove, who has already faced allegations of interference in the exam system south of the border, labelled Welsh Education Secretary Leighton Andrews “irresponsible and mistaken” whilst giving evidence to the education select committee’s investigation into so-called unfair grades.
The results under dispute are from the GCSE English exams in England and Wales. Whilst the Welsh Labour administration has ordered the WJEC exam board to begin regrading exams, Ofqual has ruled out exam regrading in England.
Consequentially, pupils in England and Wales could have different grades for the same marks, a scenario which Mr Gove claimed would devalue Welsh GCSEs.
“I believe the children who are disadvantaged are the children who sat the exam in Wales,” said Mr Gove.
“I think he [Mr Andrews] has undermined confidence in Welsh children’s GCSE results and I think he should think again about what I regard to be a regrettable political intervention.”
Mr Andrews issued a statement saying Wales was taking the right steps to tackle what he called in “injustice” in exam grading.
“Everyone accepts that a cohort of students have been treated unfairly,” he said.
“If Mr Gove and Ofqual are prepared to tolerate this unfairness then that’s a matter for them.
“We have decided to operate on the basis of proper evidence and advice to ensure that the best interests of Welsh pupils are protected. It is not our fault that the regulatory system in England is in crisis.”
English GCSEs in England and Wales fell into controversy after it emerged up to 65,000 pupils were thought to have missed out on C grades after the pass mark was increased.
Failure to obtain a C grade has made these 65,000 candidates unlikely to be able to take up sixth-form or a college place, leaving many of them stranded.
“The awarding of lower grades has been unjust to our pupils and the decision to regrade Welsh pupils and refuse to do the same for candidates in England is a further injustice,” said Patrick Ferguson, principal of The De La Salle Academy in Croxteth, Liverpool.
“This could have a life-changing impact upon our students and we are not prepared to stand by and watch it happen.”
Many schools in England and Wales have been angered by downgraded GCSE results. Ofqual, however, was not intervened with by Mr Gove as it is an independent regulator.
Glenys Stacey, head of Ofqual, told the education select committee this week that the regulator played a “proper part” in grading, and reaffirmed their refusal to regrade in England.