Teaching unions have expressed their anger at lawyers advertising their services to students about to receive their exam results.
A-level students are set to find out their results today, with GCSE results out on Thursday, after a year in which teachers assessed grades without external examinations.
There have been a number of reports in recent weeks of parents prepared to take legal action if their children do not receive the results they expect. Consumer firm Claimsmiths, a subsidiary of London practice Brandsmiths, last week launched its own service dedicated to helping students who wish to challenge their grades. The firm says students are at the heart of its service and that its aim is to ensure they get the results they deserve.
But a teaching union has condemned what it called the ‘overbearing tactics’ of lawyers trying to question schools’ assessments of pupil grades.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘We find it sad and worrying that some members of the legal profession now apparently see this situation as fair game. Inevitably only a privileged minority of parents will be in a position to be able to afford to employ law firms and schools and colleges that receive such challenges will be deeply concerned by the prospect of having their expert judgements picked over by lawyers.’
Barton said school leaders and their staff have worked hard over the spring and summer terms to ensure students are awarded grades that accurately reflect their performance. These grades were then subject to a rigorous internal and external quality assurance process.
Claimsmiths says it will handle challenges in a ‘measured, professional fashion to minimise the emotional anxiety for families who believe that their children’s grades have been assessed incorrectly’.
It points out that each school decided what evidence would be used to determine grades, which has raised questions about fairness and objectivity.
Claimsmiths added: ‘The firm will guide [students] through the process, removing much of the emotional stress and anxiety by conducting it methodically and fairly. Given the time pressure to make any appeal, it is important to get the process right and Claimsmiths has a dedicated team to make this happen.’ The exam appeal service is being led by Brandsmiths partner Mark Gleeson.
This year the appeals process is in two stages: the first being a request to the school to check for an administrative error, while the second is an appeal to the exam board.
Students can appeal to the exam board only on the basis that the school or college did not follow its procedures properly, the school or college made an administrative mistake, or the school or college made an unreasonable exercise of academic judgement. Appeals of this kind must be submitted by 23 August, where students are applying to higher education but did not get their first choice.
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