Exam system ‘losing public confidence’ as hundreds miss out on university places over poor marking

The Independent is reporting warnings that shoddy marking standards mean that hundreds of teenagers are wrongly missing out on places at their first-choice universities and eroding public confidence in Britain’s exam system.

Christopher King, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) – which represents 275 of the country’s best known independent schools, will reveal that hundreds of students have lost places at their first choice universities – simply because their A-level marks were wrong.

“We know of cases where, after re-remarks have come through, their pupils are confirmed as having exceeded the offer of their first choice university yet have nevertheless been told – inexplicably – that they no longer have a place for that year,” he will tell his annual conference at St Andrews University in Scotland.

Mr King, who is headmaster of Leicester Grammar School, will add:  “So they have been let down twice: first by inaccurate marking and second by a university unwilling to behave honourably.  We all know this can have a terrible impact of the young people concerned.”

Mr King will reveal that 77,450 A-level and GCSE papers were regraded last year – a 42 per cent rise on the figures for the previous year.

He will say the education system is facing a “perfect storm of both decreasing public confidence and increasing pressure in the system as the greater emphasis on end-of-term exams creates even more work for examiners over the summer”…

Mr King will claim this crisis is as a result of an inadequate examiner workforce and a “byzantine” appeals process which is too cumbersom and costly for many state schools to be able to afford.

“The fact is the exams workforce has been operating as a ‘cottage industry’ which – despite some modernisation – now needs to reinvent itself for the 21st century,” he will argue…

More at: Exam system ‘losing public confidence’ as hundreds miss out on university places over poor marking


Very strong criticism here of the quality of marking at A-level and the overall exam system – it is justified?

And if the system were to reinvent itself for the 21st century, what would it need to do differently?

Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…


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Categories: Higher Education, Policy, Secondary and Teaching.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Pay exam markers a decent wage and more people will do it, meaning that there’s less pressure on a few to meet deadlines

  2. kabradders

    SchoolsImprove yes! Also offer training that goes beyond simply looking at responses and ranking them. Teachers can already do that!

  3. Reduce the number of exams pupils take at 16 – this would reduce the need for so many examiners and the admin burden on exam boards.  Exams at 16 together with teacher assessment and pupil interests/aptitude should be used to decide 16+ progression and nothing else.

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