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Counterview: GCSE review is not fair on pupils

Lucy Rigby is Lincoln Labour’s parliamentary candidate for the next general election. In this column, she argues that Karl McCartney’s stance on changes to the current GCSE system is unfair on the pupils who narrowly missed out on the grades they needed.


I find it shocking that Mr McCartney used his first column on The Lincolnite to support the unpopular and widely criticised marking down of GCSE English students this summer.

Teachers estimate that in June, as many as 67,000 students missed out on a C grade in GCSE English because the grade boundaries in that one subject were arbitrarily moved within the school year.

So, if a child took the exam in June, and performed just as well as a child who achieved a C in that same exam in January, they will have ended up with a D (or lower). Many colleges require students to achieve a C in English, meaning hundreds of students, including in Lincoln, have not been able to start their courses or apprenticeships.

This is just plain unfair. Headteachers across the country have condemned it as such. The Welsh Government have ordered that the exam is remarked and many groups, including the Labour Party and various Tory Councils, called for this to happen in England too.

This is separate from “grade inflation”, a point Mr McCartney doesn’t understand. If he believes that too many students are getting top grades, as Michael Gove does, then the answer to this if for less students to receive top grades each year — not to move grade boundaries within a year.

This point was made by Sally Coates, a headteacher who spoke at Conservative Party Conference last year, and wrote in the Financial Times: “[...] it is blatantly unfair to move the goalposts, without warning, midway through the year.”

I think it’s disgraceful that Mr McCartney is choosing to defend patent injustice for students and parents in Lincoln and elsewhere.