Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How Many Kids Has This Happened To?

I had this email just now from a friend of mine. It speaks for itself.
My son had an offer from London University based on a BBC but when he got his result he had a BCC and the offer was withdrawn. Upon examining the grades we saw that on all the components of the English paper he had A’s and B’s but there was a U grade which gave him an overall C grade. There was no way this was true – this particular component was one that he excelled at, so we have sent for a re-mark. There was something in the news last night about this happening to a whole bunch of students in Herts. Anyhow, the great news is that I told my son to e-mail London University to tell them what happened and to convince them of his interest and dedication. The Professor called last night and today offered him a place despite the U grade. There was no way I was giving up on this one. Can you imagine though, how awful it is for kids that don’t have a pushy bitch of a mother like me? It really is a scandal and Edexel should be shot.


Tom said...

"Can you imagine though, how awful it is for kids that don’t have a pushy bitch of a mother like me?"

I imagine that not having a pushy bitch of a mother has its compensations.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember the old examination boards having this level of incompetence.

So much for 'out-sourcing', it seems to suck.

Anonymous said...

I took four A-levels at school with my all my classmates, plus I took French A-level too. Because my mum is Swiss and I speak the language fluently, it was a walk through.

On the day of the results, I got straight A-s but a B in French!

I asked for the paper to be remarked. They marked each component - written, listening etc - separately. I got an A in each section, scoring top marks on three of the four components and dropping two marks on the final one, the oral exam. Because I used slang.

But they gave me a B because a fool at the exam board didn't add up my marks properly. How many people have been denied their grades because this has happened?

verity's lovechild said...

The universities of worth should reintroduce entrance examinations, and treat our pathetic, debased system of public examinations with the contempt it deserves.

Oliver Arthurs said...

This is exactly what we should expect from the BBC. 'Brown's Broadcasting Corporation' has long ceased to be anything other than the broadcasting arm of McBroon's Downing Street operation.

Cameron and his team should boycott the BBC and refuse to give a single interview or provide a single comment to the BBC until they start providing more balanced coverage.

Anonymous said...

It definitely happens quite a lot. The number of papers that have errors in the marking is quite astounding.

Anonymous said...

"Helecopter Parenting" is ridiculous, bit it's growing:

I'm glad that particular student wasn't affected by the examing board cock up, but he should have dealt with it himself, and if the University had any balls they should have insisted on it.

Lecturer's Notes said...

The next 3 years should be an "interesting time" for her son's "personal tutor" then !

PushyParentsUnite said...

Should never have out-sourced it - we now have the MRSA/Twizzler-effect in the Exam mark system.

Capitalism sucks - good thing Camera-man knows it and is intent on us living in co-operative local state-lets with philanthropic benefactors leading us to paradise.

Pushy Bitch of a Mother said...

Anonymous 3:24 - I agree with you entirely-it is his responsibility and he did take it upon himself to solve it. However there is nothing wrong with a mother giving a gentle shove in the right direction - that is what we are there for. Most kids of 18 don't know how to navigate their way around this stuff and once you show them the way it's down to them! He now must show the uni that he deserves such consideration and if he doesn't he WILL have me to answer to!

Anonymous said...

Yes this is very sad - and it happened to some friends of mine during our late-1990s A levels. But I don't know if it happens more now than it did - or does the web mean we all hear about it now?

Pushy Bitch of a Mother said...

Further to my last post - I opened the link to the BBC item and while I agree with much of it in theory, I can't forget that I didn't get to go to university because my parents were totally clueless about the process as was I. My school as was my son's, was totally unhelpful.

I am very concerned about the kids whose parents can't or won't advise
which is why I gave Iain permission to reprint my e-mail.

Newmania said...

Well done to the pushy bitch of a mother. She is obviously the sort that ran India with two dogs and a haughty expression. I suggest "Pushy Bitch" runs a surgery for parents of young children.( Like me ) Your three year old behaves badly at Nursery do you
1-slap the taste out of his mouth ?
2 - Understand his point of view thus consigning him to a life of infantilised hopelessness ?

What is the PB view?

Pushy Bitch of A Mother said...

Gently guide, Newmania, gently guide but an occasional slap never hurt any child!

Anonymous said...

It hasn't happened to any of my kids. But I don't have any, so I am probably not the best person to ask.

Woodhead said...

Who privatised the examaination boards and caused this fiasco?

Anonymous said...

Similar thing happened to me. 100% in one paper, 98% in another and then I became stupid and got a U for the third. Luckily it didn't effect my overall grade (which is perhaps worrying in itself).

jmk said...

It was nowhere near as important, but something similar happened to me in a Scottish Standard Grade exam (Art & Design) in 1991. Each component part of the exam is marked in a band between 1 and 7, where 1 is the highest and 7 is supposedly only possible if you don't complete any work or do something totally ridiculous. Having fully completed all three components, I was baffled to end up with a 3, a 4 and a 7, with the 7 dragging the overall grade down to 5. So I would guess if it had been marked correctly I should really have been awarded a 3 or 4, but I didn't bother challenging it. I wouldn't be surprised if this happens quite a lot.

Me vs Maradona vs Elvis said...

This happened in 2002 when a number of students got 5 As and 1 U for their 6 A-Level history modules. It turned out that the exam boards had done this deliberately to artificially reduce the number of A grades awarded.

This happened to a friend of mine who, as a result, had to take an unplanned gap year and re-apply to the university of his choice. The government should punish exam boards who behave like this and the damages awarded to the victims of such behaviour should be punitive and exemplary.

Newmania said...

Thanks PB.. :)

wallenstein said...

It's nothing to do with having a "pushy parent"... why on earth wouldn't you call the university when you miss your grades?

To be honest, if you don't have the wit at 18 to make the call yourself, you probably shouldn't be going to uni in the first place.

The fact that mummy had to sort it out does not bode well for this child's future degree success...

Norfolk Blogger said...

"universities of worth". Oh how elitist some people are.

You get the impression some Tories would simply like poor people to go down the mines and learn their place.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Anyone in the trade (as I was: observe my scars) would marvel it has taken so long to realise: it really is a scandal and Edexel should be shot.

That is a truism that goes back, long before Edexcel [sic] and its "advancing learning, changing lives" [slick and sicker], all the way to the antecedent London Board. Shooting's too good for them.

Congratulations, however, to all who made it this far. One day they will honour the pushiness of the parents that made it possible.

Norfolk Blogger said...

"universities of worth". Oh how elitist some people are.

You get the impression some Tories would simply like poor people to go down the mines and learn their place.

Insy said...

Please also take note of the good news. University admissions tutors, doing a difficult job, still take time to talk to individual students and make sensible decisions.

Ron Todd said...

The government wants to increase the number of working class kids in universities.

So first they make it more expensive which will clearly hit the working class hardest.

Then they increase the number of 'micky mouse' courses which will mostly benefit middle class kids who are not bright enough to do proper degrees but who do have parents that can afford the cost.

Then they blaim the universities when the percentage of students that are working class does not rise in line with the latest five year plan.

Anonymous said...

The universities of worth should reintroduce entrance examinations,

they are already starting to. IN five years' time, I expect that all of the Russell Group ones will have done so.

"universities of worth". Oh how elitist some people are.

You get the impression some Tories would simply like poor people to go down the mines and learn their place.

I see, so in your eyes, a degree in, say, English Literature from Oxford, Warwick, or Birmingham (all of which are noted for their provision of that course) is worth exactly the same as one from De Montfort in Leicester,is it? How about science? Imperial specialises there; would a science degree from Imperial be regarded as equivalent to one from, say, the University of Gloucestershire?

Even the universities themselves don't think that, that's why they have differing entry requirements.

Just because you don't like the fact that some people are more intelligent than others won't change it.

(You get the impression some Tories would simply like poor people to go down the mines and learn their place.

If you look at what we did to the mines, I think we can safely conclude that we don't...)

Pushy Bitch of a Mother said...


Hear, hear - I couldn't agree more. This was somebody who took the time to listen and go out on a limb for a student. Well done to him.

And, Wallenstein, if you were paying attention you'd realise the boy did take the bull by the horns himself. I merely suggested the options he could explore as any good parent would. He did the rest. Get over yourself, lighten up, sweetheart.

verity's lovechild said...

"universities of worth". Oh how elitist some people are. You get the impression some Tories would simply like poor people to go down the mines and learn their place.

I'm not the one identifying academic mediocrity with poverty, my friend.

As for sending anyone down the mines: far from it. Still, I do think it's a shame that so much expenditure is put into giving stupid people worthless degrees.

Matthew Jones said...

Out of the six modules I studied for A-Level law, two of them had to be re-marked. On both occasions the mark went up by a grade. Fortunately there were none needed in the last two papers, which could have caused a royal... mess up.

Andy C said...

I'd love to read a daily blog called "Pushy Bitch".

Can't imagine it's going to get through the firewalls at work though.

Newmania said...

universities of worth". Oh how elitist some people are.

You get the impression some Tories would simply like poor people to go down the mines and learn their place.

Spot the Polytechnic teacher !

Wallenstein said...

Crumbs... you really didn't go to uni, did you! ;-)

Your email says you "told him to email", now you're saying you "suggested options". If you're going to slate people for impugning your little cherub it would help if you wrote clearly in the first place...

Good though innit, this blogging? You get to take abuse from random strangers all based on a few lines you write as a concerned parent.

Glad Junior sorted his place out... the only way it could be better is if you tell us it's a media studies degree :-)

norman said...

There are 3 exam boards in England with different syllabi, different coursework assessment methods and different paper formats ( different syle questions) for each subject. Some expensive private tutorial colleges 'fit' a board to a student
to maximise the grade in each subject. Despite the QCA asserting the standard being the same in the 3 boards, in my experience it is not so in many subjects and Biology and Chemistry
producing the maximum grade disparity. I am generally against monopolies and I strongly feel that we should have a single exam board.

In comprehensive school situation , the school has to be convinced about remarking and sending the request to the board. I have seeen many parents frustrated by schools' attitude. This is often the case in inner city comprehensives where the schools are satisfied with a C grade. In fee-paying private schools and tutorial colleges remarking requests are considered more favourably. I have seen that in every case such
requests resulting in improved grades.

Finally, a few years ago, My son of a friend got a C in English Literature and was expecting an A or atleast a B. We got the answer acript,there were many ticks and comments like 'excellent literary and linguistic features' etc.. and when queried about the grade not matching the comments, the remarking produced a lesser mark in the same grade band!

norman said...


I typed in 'My son of a friend..', a serious error which should read'The son of a friend..', Please save me from the wrath of my wife!!

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Norman @ 8.08pm is absolutely correct in his commentary. However, "[t]here are 3 exam boards in England" might be deceptive. The Welsh Board (WJEC/CBAC) also has syllabuses and sets papers. I know of some "English" schools using this board, and finding it serves them quite nicely.

simon said...

In my - ahem - 1976 British Constitution O Level, an administrative error meant that 30+ pupils at my school (and I'm sure more at others) were given the wrong grades. It was pretty obvious that something was awry but it still took weeks to get corrected. I also recall individual errors along the lines of those mentioned in the post. I guess this has always happened.

Pushy Bitch of a Mother said...


Meedja studies - over my dead body, mate.

And stop being a Philadelphia lawyer, will you?

Take a pill.

I am grateful to everyone for sharing their stories and for their commiserations.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

pushy bitch of a mother @ 9:31 PM:

Keep with it, girl. You done good.

It's not over yet. He won't admit it, but the lad still needs you (and not just for the odd twenty sub).

About a decade on, you get the elbow squeeze, the nod, and "Thanks, Mum." Suddenly, it all seems worthwhile.

Or so I'm told.

Now, for the real event -- how do we generate a nation of pushy bitches of Mums? And nosey bastards of Dads? They are, after all, what made the middle-class and England great (so sayeth this bleeding-heart, small-l, pinko liberal).

Kate said...

It's incredibly common in my rather recent experience of A-levels. Exam boards can give out whatever results they like regardless of how good (or not) a candidate might be - it's totally at their discretion.

There's no reason short of threatening to sue over a lost university place for boards to make amends and they are often categorically unwilling to admit they have done anything wrong.

Exile said...

A quick suggestion, which is perhaps a bit too sensible, so it will never be acted upon. Drop GCSE and A-Levels as they are a joke and move over to the International Baccalaureate. Schools that teach it are licensed by the Swiss so it can't be messed about with in Britain. Easy-peasy.

Want a laugh? My eldest is now on his last year of secondary school, so I am calling around the places that offer IB in Mexico where we live. My assumption had been that he could do the diploma here, then go and live with my tribe in Nelson for a year, work at some job or other, and then apply to University.

The reason for that is that even though the thuggish bugger is British, he would still count as an overseas student unless he had the year of residence.

Are you ready for this? The period has just gone up to three years.

I haven't got the heart to tell him.

Hey said...

BBC? Sorry but your son is FAR too stupid to be going to university.

Given the prevalence of A grades, no one below ABB should be allowed into ANY university. I'm shocked that some of these people remember how to breathe, and yet they think that they should be able to get a degree.

Rather shocked and disappointed that London University would let anyone in with less than AAA.

Pushy Bitch of a Mother said...

Hey 'Hey' aka Shagadelic aka asshole

I wasn't going to dignify your comment with a reply but I couldn't resist tearing you a new one. Pray tell what do you do that you are so precious about A grades you gobshite? If you had an ounce of nous you'd know that intelligence and passion for your subject is far more important than test results. In fact the kids at my son's school were told not to try to be creative or original in their answers - which is why we have a glut of A grades belonging to people who don't have a creative idea in their head and can't even think their way through anything that isn't a 'set piece'.

Having had many Oxbridge graduates working or interning for me I was astounded to see how many of them couldn't function in an office situation. There was the Cambridge graduate who did not know how put together a cogent brief for the boss and the Oxford graduate who when faced with a difficulty didn't know how to get past it. Then there was the Hull University intern (you only need a BCC I believe) who was utterly hopeless (Iain, you know who I mean!)BUT who has now graduated and has carved out a nice career in his own political media business.

Happily, the university that my son is attending looks for passion and committment rather than straight A grades. And before you say something demeaning - it is NOT an ex-poly but even if it was, it is no reason to turn your nose up at it. So, kiss my white Irish ass.

Anonymous said...

Same thing happend to my nephew 4 years ago but in a different subject. He appealed and was upgarded by two full grades. he just graduated with a top first class honours.

My wife used to make A and O level papers but stopped years ago for two reasons.

First she was appalled at the drop in standards and what she was required to do / give marks for.

Second the pay was atrocious so there was a real incentive not to do it properly and just get through as many as possible.

Anonymous said...

"The universities of worth should reintroduce entrance examinations, and treat our pathetic, debased system of public examinations with the contempt it deserves"

To all the detractors of the 'universities of worth' one point and one example.

First the top universities in Medicine and Law have done just that. You have to sit a national test as part of their entrance process. In law the LNAT is computer based and run, I believe, through the driver testing centre network. It's rigorous.

Second, A few years back I met a youngish woman at a conference. We chatted and she revealed that she had left school with no GCSEs at all and worked for 6 years as a shop assistant but was now a mature student at a particular university doing a degree in Education. She had come into this via an access course and wanted to become a teacher.

I thought 'good on you' so I congratulated her and asked how she had now adjusted to study and exams when it had never been her thing at school. It was easy she said. Almost everything was marked on continuous assessment and coursework. There were almost no exams. Anyway, as a socialist she didnt believe in exams. They were just another form of elitism and she thought it was wrong to label and grade people at any age. Exams meant nothing and she wanted the whole concept abolished.

By now she will have graduated and I assume will be out there somewhere teaching someone's children. Good luck to them.

And before the detratctors start, yes I know this is a Conservative blog but that anecdote is absolutely utterly true. It's a single and extreme example but I was just totally shocked at the time by what I heard.

bergen said...

It happened to me 33 years ago so nothing changes.The board did not include the marks from the second half of the paper.Luckily I had a teacher who raised a stink and had the paper re-examined

aging tab said...

Having had many Oxbridge graduates working or interning for me I was astounded to see how many of them couldn't function in an office situation.

Totally true, oxbridge grads find it very difficult to deal with people who aren't other oxbridge grads.

For ages I thought this was a problem, then I looked at all the management consultancies and did exactly what they do - only hire ex-oxbridge.

works like a dream, and saved a fortune in HR. Don't even have to interview that much, as the nice admissions tutors at Oxford and Cambridge do it for us.

Pushy Bitch of a Mother said...

Ageing Tab

Is this supposed to be a GOOD thing?!

Unsworth said...

Norfolk Blogger

"You get the impression some Tories would simply like poor people to go down the mines and learn their place."

No. It's your impression, you can't speak for everyone else, I'm afraid.

Sadly there are virtually no mines left, nor any real industrial base, either. Still we've got plenty of teachers and trainers. The question is, what are all these people doing to add to the general prosperity of the nation? What is the point of all this teaching and training?

We're producing a nation of vastly overqualified counter-hands for MacDonalds, or 'customer-service' operatives. How long can we go on selling 'services' to each other before the whole economy implodes?

Remember the Polish Plumber invasion?

Pushy Bitch of A Mother said...

Anon 8:41

Brilliant posting and brilliant idea. I am finally doing a degree as a very mature student and this really works for me.

I always thought coursework was a far better indicator and teachers who know their students would know if they were pilfering from the internet. If universities wanted some kind of 'independent' indicator they could do American style 'SATs' which are strictly aptitude tests.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Unsworth @ 11.07 AM:

Which neatly raises two issues:

1. The "culture-sag" that has occurred in the teaching force over my lifetime, aided and abetted by Governments that wanted education reduced to tick-the-box instruction.

2. Why, thanks to the short-sightedness of industry, and the complicity of (mainly Tory) Governments, Britain abandoned any coherent policies for trade-training.

And, yes, this is relevant to the thread. When we adopted "criteria-related" assessment, especially in "Arts" subjects, it did inevitably become tick-the-box and teach-to-task. Thank you, Thatcher and Baker. At least, for all of its vagaries, "norm-related" assessment meant that there was a premium for originality (among teacher and taught) and a hierarchy of perceived quality.

This, incidentally, is why many students proceeding from school, where assessment is purely on determined criteria, have problems dealing with the qualitative evaluation in Higher Education. (Says he, who received the classic "Knows little; but writes well" among the more glowing responses to his undergraduate essays.)

Anonymous said...

Pushy Bitch of a Mother said...
"I wasn't going to dignify your comment with a reply but I couldn't resist tearing you a new one. Pray tell what do you do that you are so precious about A grades you gobshite?"

Ha Ha!

You fell for it.

Don't you know when you are being set up.

Anonymous said...

Hey said...

"BBC? Sorry but your son is FAR too stupid to be going to university.

Given the prevalence of A grades, no one below ABB should be allowed into ANY university. I'm shocked that some of these people remember how to breathe"

Very hard to argue with that, sadly.

Pushy Bitch of a Mother said...

"kiss my white Irish ass."

Seems kinda obvious that your, sorry his, little uni already has. Probably an ethnic thing.

Benny Austwick said...

My friend was told that to get into Warwick University he needed AABb in his A-levels (with the 'b' an AS level).

He got AABC and was refused. However, if he hadn't carried on with the C A-level and left it at AS-level then he would have had AABb.
So what does that say about learning? Stop when you reach the finishing post and don't compete for better glory? It's ridiculous.

JG said...

I would argue it is nothing new. I took my A levels 10 years ago and (seriously) my maths marks were added up incorrectly to give me a B instead of an A.
It was corrected days later but I didn't go back to my first choice university - the lack of hesitation in telling me to get stuffed with a B was enough to convince it wasn't for me.

academician said...

Hey said...

"BBC? Sorry but your son is FAR too stupid to be going to university.

Given the prevalence of A grades, no one below ABB should be allowed into ANY university. I'm shocked that some of these people remember how to breathe"

The threshold of total UCAS entry point should be set at BBB.
Looking at the 'clearing' page in the Websites of even in a number of Russell Group universities for a number of courses, and the grade requirements which is often less than 300 UCAS points (BBB), if A grades are prevalent, I wonder where have these thousands of students gone? Are these prevalent grades achieved in subjects like Business Studies, General studies and not in the hard English and sciences?

In my experience as as an university admissions tutor and an A-level examiner, the A levels are not as prevalent in the above subjects as one would like to think.

If we had to do anything about university admissions, these 'clearings' that even Russell Group universities put up should be curtailed. They indicate excess unniversity places which need rationalisation. Also the top 10 Russell Group universities recruit as much as 20% overseas students denying places for well-qualified UK students. That way they attempt to plug the funding-gap. This is ridiculous as the overseas fee is set at a level that
do not cover the cost of their education. The universities and the state fill the difference even for these overseas students.

As for the so called 'new Universities' who use 'clearing' to recruit almost all the students for their courses, this is the route many overseas students armed with an year or in some cases a term worth of funds come to UK hoping that they can finance their studies and in most cases leave university education to work. Many disappear after first year and some attend lectures sporadically. My suggestion is to stream line the number of these 'new universities',merging a number of them or even closing a few to minimise this problem. I wrote to Labour ministers concerned and they do not want to know.

Anonymous said...

the problem was neatly summarised by Prescott when he said that Labour wanted 'all our children to be above average'. Everyone laughed at him for not understanding maths, but that was just shooting the messenger to an extent. It is labour policy and that is why it is failing.

Labour have condemned elitism as a bad thing, therefore when only 10%(or less) of people went to university, that was 'élitist'. Therefore 50% of people must go. But only 10% were intelligent enough, so the bar for admission was brought down. Now employers complain that graduates are not as clever as they used to be - of course they're not! 40% of them would never have been graduates under the old system.

It was also the ridiculous figure of 50% that meant top-up fees, student debt, etc, because it had to be paid for somehow.

Moreover that is why there is a shortage of skilled labourers - mechanics, plumbers, builders etc. All of these professions were where many of those people, who had intelligence and aptitude but were not academic, would have ended up. Now they end up in debt, with a near useless degree, and expectations of a career that they will not have.

Without élitism, you will not have an élite. The best universities know this, that is why they refuse to accept quotas and positive discrimination. To complain about it is to complain about the fact that some people are better at some things than others. Which is stupid. No-one thinks that 50% of young people should represent their country at sport (to borrow a topical analogy). Why should 50% have an university degree?

Anonymous said...

what do you expect if you privatise everything! bring back the old state exam boards - gthey focussed on getting it right - not on maximising profits by minimising costs. Sometimes the State is a better provider of public services - sadly Tories and NuLab are more interested in profit than people

Tristan said...

10 years ago when I did my 'A'-levels this sort of thing happened.

Lots of people at my school got much lower than expected history grades and lost their university places as a result (in at least one case this was despite excelling at the much more difficult STEP paper).

There was no breakdown of the marks in this case so they had to wait for their papers to be re-marked.

Other examples from my 'A'-levels and GCSEs were a paper which was far harder than any other in history - that received official complaints and a question to which the teacher did not know the answer - he even went to the British Museum to look at the original sources and found nothing.

I'm sure cockups lke this happened before then too, especially in marking where you have lots of tired teachers trying to earn a little extra.