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Teachers hit back on 'over-marking'
Teachers have hit back after the exams regulator claimed they were guilty of significantly over-marking papers amid pressure to produce good results.
Teenagers were let down this summer by an exam system that is abused by teachers, Ofqual said in a new report into the GCSE English fiasco. Chief regulator Glenys Stacey laid blame for the debacle on intense pressure on schools to reach certain targets, which led to over-marking, as well as poorly designed exams and too much emphasis on work marked by teachers.
But teaching unions reacted angrily to the suggestion of deliberate over-marking, arguing that teachers should not be made scapegoats. Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said that schools are judged on their pupils' performance in GCSE English, and called for a re-think on how schools are held accountable.
"It is a diversion to attempt to blame teachers for following the rules they were given," he said. "If your elected government tells you this is the right thing to do, if your performance is measured on it and if you are sacked for failing to achieve it, you have no choice but to do it.
"Our punitive and single-minded focus on C grade exam passes does indeed deserve a share of the blame for this summer's re-grading fiasco. It amplified the effects. The way we hold schools accountable has distorted, degraded and at times corrupted our examination system."
Teachers were "not to blame for the grading shambles surrounding the exam and they should not be made scapegoats for the system," the NAHT said.
Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said it was "outrageous" to suggest that teachers and schools were to blame, adding that Ofqual is responsible for ensuring "fairness and accuracy" in the system.
An initial report by Ofqual concluded that some of January's assessments were "graded generously" but the June boundaries were properly set and candidates' work properly graded. Publishing a second report into the fiasco, Ms Stacey said: "We have been shocked by what we have found. Children have been let down. It's clear that children are increasingly spending too much time jumping through hoops rather than learning the real skills they need in life."
But Ms Stacey later appeared to row back on Ofqual's concerns that teachers are deliberately abusing the system. She told BBC News: "It's not the teachers' fault. We've made it very clear that we do understand and appreciate and value teachers' professional judgments and indeed their integrity. What we have found here is something quite different. What we have found is two very significant things.
"First, we have got a very weakly designed qualification that's very complex with lots of units, all taken in different orders, and that the teachers have to manage all of that. Not only that, they have to mark most of it as well, and they're doing that under great pressure. They're under pressure, understandable pressure from the accountability system, and we don't think that's right."