Rising numbers of GCSE and A-level papers are being awarded extra marks after pupils suffered problems such as headaches, broken bones and unforeseen issues like flooding on exam day
New official figures show a hike in the number of requests to exam boards for special consideration due to students facing exceptional circumstances as well as a rise in the number of applications that were approved.
Overall, there were 589,650 requests made following this year’s GCSE and A-level exams, up around 4% on 2015, according to statistics published by exams regulator Ofqual.
Of these, more than nine in 10 (93%) were approved – 550,700 in total. This is up around 5% on last year.
“This increase could, at least in part, be explained by significant events where entire school cohorts were affected (such as widespread flooding) and large group requests submitted and approved,” Ofqual’s report said.
It also said that there had been a sharp increase in requests between 2013 and 2015, which may be partly due to changes to GCSEs and A-levels in England and mean that students now sit all of their exams at the end of the course, rather than throughout the two-year study period, as well as a cut in re-sits.
Under the current system, pupils can be awarded up to an extra 5% of the maximum mark on a paper, due to an illness, injury or other circumstances that had an impact on their performance in an exam.
The maximum 5% is usually given only in the most exceptional cases, such as terminal illness of the student or a member of their immediate family, the very recent death of a close family member or a very serious and disruptive domestic crisis.
More commonly, pupils were awarded fewer extra marks for less serious issues, such as a recently-broken limb, an illness on exam day or circumstances outside of their control on the day of an exam.
In the vast majority of cases, pupils applying for ”special consideration” have been present for the paper, but been disadvantaged in some way, while the others asking for circumstances to be taken into account had not been able to complete all the exams or work needed to get the qualification.
If a candidate misses an exam and asks for special consideration to be given an award, there is usually a requirement that they have completed 40% of the assessments. This has become more difficult now that courses do not have exams throughout as pupils are less likely to be able to meet the requirement, Ofqual’s report said.