167 pupils, 150 schools and 42 councils, including Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Lewisham, have served legal papers on the exam regulator Ofqual and exam boards AQA and Edexcel, arguing for a re-grading of the GCSE English paper sat in the summer.
The alliance also consists of six professional bodies, including National Union of Teachers and National Association for the Teachingof English.
It is estimated that 10,000 students who took their English GCSE exam in June missed out on a C grade after a rise in grade boundaries. Students awarded a D achieved the exact same standards as those that in January were awarded a C.
It emerged Britain’s exam regulator, Ofqual had altered the grade boundaries after finding students taking the exam in January had been‘graded generously”.
45,000 students are now due to resit their GCSE English in November.
The alliance decided to take court action to: “Challenge the decision by the exam boards to increase the C grade boundary by an unprecedented margin from the one applied in January 2012 to the one applied in June 2012.”
It also challenges the, “decision by Ofqual to approve, or fail to reverse, that change.”
The statement of claim says: “The decisions have prejudiced the life chances of thousands of children. The immediate effects of the decisions include children being unable to progress in education, losing vocational opportunities and jobs and being unable to gain employment.
“The children affected by the decisions were entitled to be treated in a fair, consistent and rational manner by the defendants. They were not.
“The decisions are incompatible with the most elementary principles of fairness, rationality and good administration. They are unlawful and should be quashed.”
In August the national GCSE results fell for the first time in 24 years.
There was a national drop of 1.5 per cent in English and one of 1.9 per cent in English Literature.
While results rose or stayed level in all four EastLondonLines boroughs many were angered by the changing grade boundaries for English.
The government had also increased the ‘floor target’ of pupils getting at least five grades above C from 35% to 40%. It means schools falling below this target will be classed as failing and could be taken out of local authority control and converted into academies.
Seven schools from Lewisham are represented in the legal action. The council said 163 students had missed out on a C grade as a result of the grade increase.
Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock said: “While it is plain to see to most reasonable people that what has happened is just not fair, Ofqual and the boards have refused the opportunity to clear up their own mess. We have no alternative now but to pursue this through the court to get justice for our young people.”
When GCSE results were published in August a teacher from Lewisham told EastLondonLines that slipping from a C for a D grade would be “disastrous for ambitious but troubled students”.
OfQual, the exam regulating body, have said that the grade boundaries in June were at the right level but acknowledged problems with January boundaries.
Last month, around 24,000 pupils in Wales had their results re-graded to a better result, after education minister Leighton Andrews ordered the WJEC exam board to review the marking system.
Christine Blower, general secretary of National Union of Teachers had warned of legal action in a letter sent to Ofqual and exam boards AQA and Edexcel, in September. It demanded that the students who took GCSE examinations in June 2012 be treated in the same way as those who took examinations in January.
OfQual responded two weeks later, with a spokesperson saying the regulator was “rigorously defending our decisions”.
OfQual has argued against a remarking of grades saying, “There would be a serious risk of undermining confidence in these qualifications”.
Commenting on the legal challenge Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“It is a dreadful shame that it has come to this. The Education Secretary should have taken the lead from Wales and re-graded this year’s English GCSEs.
“The NUT, as part of a coalition of other interested parties, has been left with no option but to try and redress through the courts the great injustice suffered this year by schools and pupils.”
The students who are taking legal challenge are all minors and taking actions through their parent/carer and litigation friend.
EastLondonLines schools included in the alliance are:
Addey & Stanhope, New Cross
Conisborough College, Catford
Deptford Green, New Cross
George Green’s School, Isle of Dogs
Haggerston School, Hackney
Prendergast Hilly Fields College Hilly Fields, Brockley
Prendergast Ladywell Fields College, Brockley
Sedgehill School, Bellingham
The Petchey Academy, Hackney
For full figures and statement from the alliance go here.