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Pressure for GCSE legal action

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Councils are coming under pressure from headteachers to take legal action over the marking of English GCSE exams this summer, after grade boundary changes left many pupils with lower-than-expected results.

Two senior figures, Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes (Lab) and Islington LBC cabinet member Richard Watts (Lab), said at a meeting of the LGA children and young people board that they had been pressed in this way.

“We’re certainly one of the councils which is looking to take legal action on this,” Cllr Forbes said. “I’ve got teachers and head teachers who are absolutely climbing the walls on this issue and clamouring for us to take some action.”

Cllr Watts said he was in a similar position. “I’m under a lot of pressure from some of the headteachers in my borough to consider legal action, so I’d like to take the temperature of where people [on the board] stand on that.”

It is unlikely that any legal action would take place through the LGA board. At the meeting, board chair and Hillingdon LBC cabinet member David Simmonds (Con), sounded a note of caution. “The LGA needs to be saying we want to ensure that fairness and consistency of the grades is restored. But one of the dangers [of legal action] is that Ofqual could say in order to ensure fairness it would remark the January papers and downgrade them. Would we consider that to be fair?”

Roy Perry (Con), lead member for children’s services at Hampshire CC, said at the meeting: “I’m not sure we’re ready to go to court. But I do think the LGA has to say that this [the marking as it stands] is unacceptable.”

It is not yet known whether councils such as Newcastle or Islington would be prepared to take action individually or as part of a smaller group.

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