‘Huge’ number of appeals expected as parents threaten to use lawyers over grades

Schools and colleges are expecting a “huge” number of appeals this summer as some parents have already threatened to get lawyers involved over grades, the leader of a headteachers’ union has warned.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said some families are placing pressure on teachers to ensure their child secures the grades needed for university.

He told MPs that the school leaders’ union is giving legal advice to members on how to cope with parents who say they have a lawyer ready to challenge grades that they do not agree with.

Teachers in England have finalised decisions on their pupils’ GCSE and A-level grades after this summer’s exams were cancelled for the second year in a row.

Schools and college teachers have drawn on a range of evidence when determining grades, including mock exams, coursework, and in-class assessments using questions by exam boards.

Next month, students will find out what grades they have been awarded after 14 months of disruption to learning amid the pandemic.

Addressing the Education Select Committee, Mr Barton said: “I think we will see a huge number of appeals beyond the priority appeals.

“And again we are already seeing examples of some parents exerting some pressure on some people, saying ‘my daughter needs certain grades to get to university, if they don’t get them I’ve got a lawyer lined up’.

“That’s not a caricature, we have got that, we are giving legal advice to our members.”

Pupils who want to appeal against their grade must first request that their school or college reviews whether an administrative or procedural error was made.

If the school or college rules no error was made, then students can escalate the appeal to the exam boards.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), is concerned about “huge workload implications” for staff over the summer.

He told MPs: “I was talking to a secondary head only last week, who only last week had received an email from one of the exam boards asking would the headteacher be available for every day of the summer holiday so they can talk to them about the appeals process.

“And if they aren’t going to be available for every day, can they give them the telephone number of another member of senior staff who will be available for every day of the summer holidays.”

Mr Courtney also expressed concerns about teachers being criticised if the proportion of top grades awarded this summer increases again.

He said: “Our worry is that politicians might then criticise teachers for an increase in grades, which would be completely inappropriate if that happens.”