Liverpool Head calls for review over lost A-level papers

A Liverpool headteacher is calling for “a complete, independent review” after exam board AQA lost 34 A level exam papers, affecting students’ university places. 

Stephen Brierley, Principal at St Margaret’s Academy in Aigburth, has criticised AQA after it lost 34 students’ English Literature A-level papers during the summer — before they were marked.

The English Literature papers, accounting for 40% of each student’s A-level grade, were therefore graded using estimated marks in order for St Margaret’s students to get any grade at all.

However Stephen feels that the estimated marks given are too low. He says: “One student has been estimated to have got 0 marks for his missing Shakespeare paper: how can that possibly be fair?”

“And all the marks AQA have estimated are lower than the marks they actually got in their other paper – despite the fact that in their AS level exam last summer, all 34 students did better in their Shakespeare paper than in the other paper.”

Stephen says due to these unfair marks AQA has given, some students have missed out on University places.

Student Joe Sargent, 18 from Allerton says: “I’m very disappointed that AQA lost my English Literature paper, I just don’t understand how this could happen.

“AQA has worked out my grade based on averages, to me this is not a fair system as the lost Shakespeare paper would have been my strongest area in this assessment – but AQA haven’t taken this in to consideration.

“I’ve accepted a place on a Sports Journalism course at Chester University, as I didn’t get my first choice at Liverpool John Moores University based on my grade. If I had received a higher grade in English Literature then who knows what possible offers or choices I would of had at my first choice university? Unfortunately it’s the case that I’ve had to accept second best because of AQA’s error.”

Stephen also feels badly let down by AQA’s handling of the situation. He continues: “AQA didn’t tell us about the lost scripts until it was too late to do anything about it.

“They didn’t even check who was present in the exam before they awarded estimated marks. And now we’ve alerted them to how unfair their estimates are, they’re taking nearly a week to sort it out – which isn’t fair on anyone, particularly our students, when University places are at stake.

Educate contacted AQA who said they are “talking to UCAS to try to make sure that everyone gets the university places they deserve.”

Claire Thomson, AQA’s director of operations, adds: “In a system that involves millions of exam scripts being sent through the post, unfortunately some do very occasionally go missing. When this happens, we try to make sure students don’t lose out by calculating their overall grades based on how they’ve done in their other exams in the same subject.

“These grades are generally very accurate, but the school has got in touch to say they don’t think they’re fair in this case, so we’re double-checking.

“We should have told the school about their missing scripts earlier, and we’re sorry this didn’t happen. We’re doing a review to find out why and make sure we learn from it.”

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