THE High Court today ruled against a legal challenge over last-minute changes to GCSE English grade boundaries.

Hundreds of pupils, schools, councils and teaching unions formed an alliance in a bid to secure a judicial review after accusing AQA and Edexcel exam boards of unfairly pushing up the boundaries for English last summer.

But two judges at London's High Court today dismissed the challenge.

Speaking to your Worcester News after the decision, Sean Devlin, headteacher at Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College, said the English education system was "a laughing stock".

He said: "I'm very disappointed [by the ruling]. Obviously, we need to look at what the actual judgement states.

"It's a judgement that I think is unfair. It's going to be very disappointing not just for the students here, but those across the country.

"It's more evidence that examination [results] at the moment are just a game and the government manipulates them for their own purposes.

"I don't know what the next steps will be [for the alliance]. We must be a laughing stock in England."

Pershore High School headteacher, Clive Corbett, said he was not suprised by the decision.

He said: "I lost faith long ago in justice being applied to the GCSE English fiasco.

"What disappoints me most is not the impact upon any school’s 5 A* to C performance in 2012 but the fact that across England thousands of young people did not receive the grades that their efforts deserved."

The judges were told at a hearing in December that an estimated 10,000 pupils who sat exams in June last year missed out on a C grade - the minimum grade normally needed to go into further education.

Clive Sheldon QC, appearing for the alliance, said the lower grades were not the fault of the students, who had "worked well and hard".

He said the evidence of unfairness was overwhelming and Ofqual had given an instruction to avoid "grade inflation".

He said the June students should be put in the position they would have been in had the grade boundaries in January been applied to them.

Lord Justice Elias dismissed the alliance's application for judicial review, but said the issue had caused an outcry and was "a matter of widespread and genuine concern properly brought to court".

The judge said Ofqual, following the outcry over the grades, "was not persuaded that it should require the grade boundaries to be changed, but it appreciated that there were features of the process which had operated unfairly and it proposed numerous changes for the future which are designed to ensure that the problems which arose in this case will not be repeated.

"It also took the unusual step of allowing students to take resits in November instead of having to wait until the following January."

Mrs Justice Sharp said she agreed that the alliance application should be dismissed.

Ofqual chief regulator, Glenys Stacey, welcomed the decision of the court and said that, while faced with a difficult situation, the body did "the right thing and the fairest thing, for the right reasons".

She said: "It's clear from the judgment that if we had followed the course of action called for by the claimants, the value of GCSE English would have been 'debased', to use the judge's word, and many students would have received grades that they did not deserve.

"We know some students and schools will be disappointed with this. We understand that. But it's our job to secure standards."

About 300 pupils across the county are believed to have been affected by the change.

The latest league tables revealed some Worcestershire schools saw the percentage of their students achieving the benchmark of at least five A* to C grade GCSEs, including English and maths, fall by almost 20 per cent last year.

A spokesman for the Department for Education spokesman said education secretary Michael Gove warned when he came to office that the GCSE system had "serious weaknesses" and needed "fundamental reform".

The spokesman said: "The Department was already fixing some of these issues – including scrapping the modular approach, like the January assessments that led to last year’s grading problems.

"We are now making further reforms to GCSEs, including overhauling league tables so they are fair to schools and pupils, and still give parents and the public the information they need.

"The judgement demonstrates that overall Ofqual got it right last year. Attention can now focus on reforming GCSEs ready for first teaching in 2015."