Teachers have hit back at claims that they abused the exam system to boost grades, as new figures showed that hundreds of schools saw a drop in pupils achieving at least a C in GCSE English this year.
More than 600 schools and colleges saw a more-than-10% fall in the number of students scoring A*-C in the qualification, according to data from the exams regulator Ofqual.
The figures, provided to the Commons education select committee, indicate the scale of this summer's debacle, which saw high numbers of teenagers achieve lower than expected grades in the subject.
Headteachers have said that tens of thousands of students received lower GCSE English grades than expected this year, mainly around the C/D border, after exam boards moved the grade boundaries between January and June.
The new statistics come as a Ofqual report into GCSE English found that teachers were guilty of "significantly" over-marking papers amid pressure to produce good results. Teenagers were let down this summer by an exam system that is abused by teachers, the regulator said.
Chief regulator Glenys Stacey laid blame for the debacle on intense pressure on schools to reach certain targets, which led to over-marking, as well as poorly designed exams and too much emphasis on work marked by teachers.
But teaching unions reacted angrily to the suggestion, arguing that teachers should not be made scapegoats. Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: "It is a diversion to attempt to blame teachers for following the rules they were given."
Teachers were "not to blame for the grading shambles surrounding the exam and they should not be made scapegoats for the system," the NAHT said. Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was "outrageous" to suggest that teachers and schools were to blame, adding that Ofqual is responsible for ensuring "fairness and accuracy" in the system.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers accused the regulator of "shifting the blame whilst at the same time exposing the nonsense of floor targets". Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union said: "Ofqual's report has highlighted the poisonous relationship between the qualifications system and the accountability regime. This is at the heart of the controversy."
The cross-party education select committee published a series of questions on the GCSE English fiasco which it sent to the regulator in September. Ofqual's responses reveal that 371 schools and colleges saw a more-than-15% decrease in candidates achieving grades A*-C in English, compared with last year, and a further 240 saw a 10%-15% drop.