From education to employment

Claimsmiths launches service to help challenge teacher-assessed grades

Today Claimsmiths launches its service to students who wish to challenge their GCSE, AS and A level teacher-assessed grades (TAGs). The Claimsmiths team, a consumer focused arm of the law firm Brandsmiths (@Brandsmiths), handles such challenges in a measured, professional fashion to minimise the emotional anxiety for families who believe that their children’s grades have been assessed incorrectly.

Next week sees the publication of TAGs for both A-level / AS and GCSE students (on August 10 and 12 respectively). It is the second year that these exams have been cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This year’s exam cohort has faced extensive periods of isolated distance learning, sometimes of variable quality, with the additional impact on their mental health both from Covid and the uncertainty about the assessment procedure.

The Government replaced public exams with TAGs for this summer. Unlike 2020, there was no algorithm in place. Each individual school decided what evidence would be used to determine TAGs, which has raised concern about the fairness and objectivity of the grades. Some schools, for example, used (in part at least) exams that were set internally, sat in “Covid” conditions that included increased ventilation, with its attendant effect on temperature and external noise.

The regulator Ofqual has admitted that grades are accurate only to plus or minus a single grade. A student who received a B could therefore validly receive an A or a C. A recent survey showed that only 52% of teachers considered that the TAG system was fair and would give students the grade they deserved. Ofqual’s own research suggested that there is bias and discrimination in the grading system which resulted in the issuing of guidance for schools and colleges on how to make objective judgements.

Research carried out by the Department for Education indicates that pupils’ GCSE grades can make a substantial difference to earnings in adulthood. One GCSE grade higher across nine subjects would result in an average lifetime salary increase of £207k compared to a slightly lower-scoring student on the basis of the DfE research. Further, the research showed that one grade higher than their peers in a single GCSE would result in an average lifetime salary uplift of £23k for a student.

Claimsmiths aims to support students to help them to get the grade they deserve. The firm will guide them 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 process for review and appeal in England is a two-stage approach. Students can ask for a review by the school if they believe that there has been an administrative or procedural error. A review can result in the same grade, a higher grade or a lower grade. If a student is dissatisfied by the outcome of the review, they can ask for an appeal to the awarding body. The school must put appeals forward. The grounds for an appeal are the same, ie that there has been an administrative or procedural error. In addition, the student can appeal if they believe the grade was an unreasonable exercise of academic judgment.

The Exam Appeal offering is being led by Mark Gleeson, a partner at Brandsmiths and specialist in data law which will be used to underpin the appeal service. Gleeson has more than 25 years’ experience and is personally committed to this process, having a 16-year-old child himself. “Our team has the experience and expertise to support students and parents in their efforts to obtain fair results,” Gleeson said.


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