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Volume 549: debated on Monday 3 September 2012

7. What proportion of students at state schools in York achieved five or more GCSEs at (a) grade A* to C and (b) grades A* to E in 2012. (118468)

The Department for Education will publish tables of provisional GCSE results for 2012 in October. In 2011, 84.3% of pupils in state schools in York achieved five or more GCSEs at grade A* to C and 94.3% achieved five or more GCSEs at grade A* to E.

York’s schools continue to perform better than the national average, but I have faced many complaints from parents and teachers about the English marking fiasco. The head teacher of one of York’s best performing schools, Steve Smith, says:

“It is morally wrong to manipulate exam results in this way—it is playing with young people’s futures.”

Will the Secretary of State advise Ofqual to re-mark the papers according to the old criteria while the inquiry goes on and will he publish all his correspondence with Ofqual on this matter?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for asking that question. Let me take this opportunity to underline my admiration for the work done by York schools and York head teachers. I share the sadness that many teachers and students will feel about what happened with GCSE English this year. It is appropriate that we should all learn lessons about some of the mistakes made in introducing an examination, modular in style, that was not best equipped to ensure that all students could perform well and be treated fairly.

The hon. Gentleman invites me to tell Ofqual what it should do. I will not, because the Secretary of State for Education when the hon. Gentleman supported the Government, Mr Ed Balls, pointed out that Ofqual was an independent regulator of standards, independent of Ministers and reporting directly to Parliament and he said:

“I am not going to second-guess its work.”—[Official Report, 23 February 2009; Vol. 488, c. 27.]

I hold to that position.

I was reluctant to interrupt the flow of the Secretary of State’s eloquence, but I remind the House that the question relates exclusively to York—not even to Redcar, although Question 9 might present its opportunities to hon. Members.