Media Centre

GCSE changes must not affect disadvantaged pupils, says Bishop of Oxford

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, about how the marking of GCSE English this summer has caused "great distress to some of our most vulnerable pupils". He has also asked for reassurances that proposed changes to GCSEs generally will enable students from poorer backgrounds to continue to flourish.

In a letter which covered a range of subjects Bishop John, chair of the Church of England's Board of Education, said: "I also need to reflect the great distress to some of our most vulnerable pupils caused by the debacle over GCSE English grades this year. This is a considerable affront to natural justice and efforts to raise the aspirations of pupils from less favoured backgrounds are not made any easier. I would very much like to hear how the changes you propose to GCSE examinations will enable students from the same demographic to achieve and move on to the next stage of their education."

The Revd Jan Ainsworth, the Church of England's chief education officer, said: "We recognise that grade boundaries are adjusted during the process but the shift in the English C/D boundary was exceptional. It has disproportionately affected those children who have had to overcome greater difficulties in reaching the top grades. We are amazed at the loss of talent that has been the result."

Philip Mantell, Director of Education for Exeter Diocese, said pupils in church schools across the diocese have suffered hugely through "the marking fiasco". He says pupils from two Church of England schools serving deprived communities have been particularly affected:

All Saints Academy, Plymouth: A*-C in English down 12% points on what they expected, that is 22 young people's lives affected
3 levels progress in English down 15% points
5 A*-C (inc E&M) - down 4% points 

St Cuthbert Mayne, Torbay: A*-C in English down 10% points on what they expected, that is 20 young people's lives affected
3 levels progress in English down 10% points
5 A*-C (inc E&M) 7% points lower than expected