Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 September 2019

New GCSE system prompts rise in results appeals by UAE pupils

British-curriculum pupils will receive their results on Thursday but school heads expect many will want their papers re-marked

Pupils receive their GCSE results at Dubai British School in August 2013. Victor Besa / The National 
Pupils receive their GCSE results at Dubai British School in August 2013. Victor Besa / The National 

British curriculum schools in the UAE are expecting more pupils to query their GCSE results after receiving them on Thursday – as has been the trend since the grading system was reformed two years ago.

Heads of schools said they had noticed a 10 per cent increase in the number of pupils asking for their papers to be remarked since last year.

Previously, only 4 or 5 per cent of pupils would send their papers back, but this figure has since risen to as much as 15 per cent at some schools.

“Since 2016, we have seen an increase in appeals as well as changes in grades,” said James McBlane, deputy head at the British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi, where 116 pupils sat their GCSEs this year.

“In the UK there has been a 40 per cent increase in grade changes since 2016,” he said. “Last year there were 2,000 grade changes in the UK and our appeals are up by about 10 per cent from 4 per cent in previous years to 14 to 15 per cent last year.”

He said the school was expecting a similar number of appeals this year.

A report last year by UK education regulator Ofqual found that up to 40 per cent of GCSE candidates were being awarded inaccurate grades.

British media is reporting that a record number of pupils are expected to query their GCSE results in the UK this year.

GCSE results will be released worldwide on Thursday. If a pupil’s predicted grade does not match what they receive, teachers can recommend a second marking of their paper.

A re-marking appeal can cost between Dh250 and Dh350 per paper but if the grade is changed the money is refunded to the pupil.

The exams were reformed in 2016 and a new grading system was introduced.

Previously, pupils would be marked on a scale running from A* to G, but this has now been replaced by a numerical system, with 9 being the highest score; this is typically earned by the top 2-4 per cent of pupils sitting the exam worldwide.

This numerical grading system was gradually introduced over the past two years but this is the first year that it will be used for nearly all GCSE subjects.

“We are seeing an unsettled picture for schools with the new system and different exams, and the uncertainty is giving rise to pupils asking for a re-mark,” Mr McBlane said.

He said the Ofqual investigation showed that in subjects such as History and English, 40 per cent of grades were inaccurate.

Brendon Fulton, principal of Dubai British School in Jumeirah Park, said that the GCSE curriculum specifications changed recently, which meant every subject had a new set of standards.

“In the past, we would have a backlog of papers that we could draw on to understand how the marking works,” Mr Fulton said. “Last year and this year we did have a significant number of appeals with pupils asking to be re-marked,” he said.

Seventy-one of Dubai’s 209 schools follow the British curriculum. Pupils in the UAE sit the exams locally but have them sent to the UK to be marked. The papers are then returned to the UAE.

Sixty-eight pupils sat their GCSEs at Dubai British School this year.

Brendon Fulton, principal of Dubai British School, says he expects more pupils to apply for remarking this year. Antonie Robertson / The National
Brendon Fulton, principal of Dubai British School, says he expects more pupils to apply for remarking this year. Antonie Robertson / The National

Mr Fulton said pupils are unsure about the grounds on which they are being marked. As a result, they are applying for appeals in the hope that their results improve.

He said teaching the new syllabus has also been a challenge for the staff after the material was completely overhauled two years ago. The first reforms were introduced to English Language, English Literature and Mathematics.

GCSEs are a subject-specific two-year qualification undertaken by pupils between the ages of 14 and 16.

By next year, all GCSEs in England will be graded using the numerical system.

Updated: August 19, 2019 05:55 PM

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