TWO Worcester headteachers have blasted the government’s scheme for marking exams after a number of pupils had their results downgraded.

Neil Morris, head at Christopher Whitehead Language College, called the system “shambolic”, saying he was extremely disappointed for his students, many of whom have reduced grades.

While Ed Senior, principal of Worcester Sixth Form College, condemned the "injustice" of pupils' not getting the grades they deserved.

Mr Morris said: “These students are the cohort who underwent the first set of GCSE results with the new 9-1 grades, had their rite of passage end of school, final standardised exams cut short by the pandemic and are now the guinea pigs for the calculated exams shambles based on bell curves and algorithms, not actual performance.

“What deeply saddens me is that these results mask some superb results and we are now having to go through a lengthy appeal process with no real understanding of when the correct results will be given.

“We have 75 students whose grades have been downgraded, we are disappointed if we get five wrong in a year.

“In many cases they are downgraded by as much as three grades to grades that are not accurate, not fair and do not represent the grades calculated by staff.

“In particular our science grades are spectacularly penalised, with C grade students given U grades and fabulously bright A grade students given C grades thereby ensuring they fit a bell curve of historic data not the current cohorts' ability, work, aptitude or recent mock results.”

Mr Morris’ concerns were shared by headteachers across the country, with OFQUAL ( Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) data showing up to 40 per cent of grades went down, leaving many students unable to get into their first choice university.

He added: “If we are now allowed to use the mock results that are better than the awarded grades and in some cases better than the teacher calculated grades, how are they going to be validated?

“This is key information that I need to know prior to facing devastated parents and students – it is not as if they have had months to prepare for this.

“If a student wishes to appeal via the school, Ofqual are not clear on how they intend to undertake this process or, crucially, the timeframe.”

Across the county, many schools took the decision not to release exam data following a joint statement from the Worcestershire Association of Secondary Headteachers and Worcestershire County Council.

In the statement, the group said: “Given the government’s announcement about the removal of the publication of school level data this year, and the unique method of arriving at grades for students, Worcestershire County Council supported by Worcestershire Children First have also undertaken not to collect and publish school level data.

“Worcestershire schools and colleges are therefore not required to collate or publish individual school level data.

“We would like to pay tribute to the hard work of each and every student, prior to the notice that exams were cancelled, and the resilience shown by them in the period of great uncertainty between March and August.

“The Ofqual grade awarding process is designed to produce results that offer equal standard of achievement with previous cohorts, and students should today be proud of their achievements.”

Ed Senior, principal of Worcester Sixth Form College, echoed Mr Morris’ comments, saying: “I am really proud of all of our students and do not want the unusual circumstances in which grades were awarded to undermine any student’s sense of achievement.

“Young people, supported by their teachers and other college staff, have worked really hard for their success and have had to overcome the most challenging circumstances.

“My thoughts today however are with those students who, through no fault of their own, have had their grades unfairly reduced by Ofqual’s algorithm.

“I share their sense of injustice and the college will do everything it can to support students in challenging this.

“As ever we will ensure that students are supported to move forward positively, through ongoing pastoral care, careers advice and guidance, and support with university, apprenticeship applications and employers.

“We will also provide advice on resits or retaking the year where grades do not provide an accurate measure of a student’s ability.

“Knowing the enormous talents and abilities our young people possess I know they will go on to great things and I wish them all the best for their future.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson ruled out further changes to the grading system in the face of the backlash.

"There will be some youngsters, no matter how much we try to do in terms of this system to maximise the fairness of it, who don't get the grade they should have potentially have got.

"That's why we need to have a really robust system, that's why we've got the triple lock (pupils get the highest grade out of 1.Their estimated grade based on the mocks; 2. An optional written paper in the autumn; 3. An appeal through their school if the estimated result is lower than the mock exam.)

Mr Williamson said this would provide "robust grounds of appeal" and allow pupils to take exams later in the year if required.