A-level student launches legal bid against Ofqual
An A-level student has launched a legal bid against the exams regulator Ofqual to “force them to come up with a fairer system”.
The Good Law Project, which is supporting six other students over a judicial review of Ofqual’s “failings”, has so far raised almost £60,000 by crowdfunding to cover legal costs.
Curtis Parfitt-Ford, 18, accused the government of “playing politics” with the futures of thousands of young people after a standardisation algorithm that took into account schools’ historic performance downgraded almost 40% of predicted grades.
This led to many missing out on their first-choice universities and some facing an anxious future with no current university place, leaving students and parents angry and confused.
Parfitt-Ford, from Ealing in west London, said that despite getting the grades he was predicted, he could not stand by and watch his friends and cohort “getting the grades they don’t deserve”.
“I saw that classes of more than 15 people would be calculated without any reference to teachers’ predicted grades, and I thought that wasn’t right,” he told the Guardian.
“We will end up in the situation where young people are judged by the school’s background and not wholly on their own abilities. It is our contention that that is outside of Ofqual’s jurisdiction. Their job is to assess individual performance.
“We hope we won’t have to, but we’re ready to proceed to the high court if we need to.”
Parfitt-Ford’s crowdfunding page has amassed more than £17,000 in donations in less than two days and he is being represented by a legal team from Leigh Day and Foxglove.
Parfitt-Ford, who received A*A*AA, described the now suspended appeals process as “ridiculous and insane”, but said he was glad it was being reviewed following a late-night decision by Ofqual on Saturday just hours after it published its criteria for appeals based on mock exam results.
“It was an interesting thing to witness at 10pm,” he said. “We are obviously slightly confused and I think teachers and students are too. Ofqual can’t make up their own minds, never mind produce a coherent statement. The government is playing politics with our futures.”
In a 22-page letter to Ofqual, Parfitt-Ford’s legal team described the model used to determine grades as “irrational, arbitrary, fails to take account of relevant considerations” and claimed it was unlawful. He added that the action sought to “force [Ofqual] to come up with a fairer system”.
Data from Ofqual shows that independent schools saw an increase of 4.7% in the number of students securing A or A* grades from 2019, compared with 2% for state schools and just 0.3% for further education colleges.
One of the students taking legal action, whose name was given as Michael, saw his grades fall from a predicted BBB to EEE.
Dan Rosenberg, an education lawyer at Simpson Millar, who is representing several A-level students, said his firm had been overwhelmed by enquiries from others in a similar position. “All of them speak of the emotional distress and uncertainty that this has caused,” he said.
“We would urge the government to act quickly to resolve this matter and to make sure that those who are still awaiting their GCSE results later this week do not have to suffer in the same way.”
Jolyon Maugham, director of the Good Law Project, said: “If you don’t go to a successful school, you don’t deserve to succeed either – strip away all the science, and that’s what’s delivered by the system Ofqual and Gavin Williamson have put in place.
“It’s not fair, it’s not good enough, and hard-working students should not have to stand for it.”
Ofqual has been contacted for comment.
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