The UK's biggest exam board could face class action from parents, following revelations that answers were being "remarked" by the same examiners.
Earlier this week it emerged that AQA was handed the biggest ever fine by the exam regulator after it admitted that for three years it failed to ensure that the examiners who remarked questions following an appeal were different to the examiners who had marked them the first time around.
Now the board could face class action from parents who fear their children may have been disadvantaged as a result.
Ofqual told The Daily Telegraph that while AQA had accepted its ruling on its remarking failures and will not appeal, it is still possible for third parties to come forward with a claim.
Shimon Goldwater, a senior solicitor at Asserson - the law firm which represented university students who launched legal action against last year’s lecturer strikes - said a group action might be possible against the examination board.
He said that if parents could show they have experienced financial loss arising from AQA'S failures, they could make a claim. Marking reviews are paid for by schools, so this would only apply where the cost has been passed on to parents.
Mr Goldwater said: “If there is actual money that you’ve had to lay out because of it...then possibly those expenses you could claim.”
Dr Tony Breslin, former chief examiner for GCSEs and chair of examiners for A levels, said that AQA's remarking blunder represents a "systematic failure".
He said: "If I were a parent I would be furious. I would imagine an enterprising law firm could launch a class action on behalf of a group of parents."
But any parents or schools that decide to take action and challenge either Ofqual or AQA would need "very deep pockets", he added.
The exam board has been ordered to pay £350,000 by Ofqual, as well as an unprecedented £735,570 in compensation to schools and exam centres.
During 2016, 2017 and 2018, AQA failed to ensure that the examiners who remarked questions following an appeal were different to the examiners who had marked them the first time around.
Neil Roskilly, chief executive of the Independent Schools Association, said they would “certainly support” parents in launching a claim if they felt their children had been “dumbed down”.
“AQA has said no child has missed out on a grade they should have received, but it would be interesting to see if that proves to be the case,” he said.
Mark Bedlow, AQA’s Interim Chief Executive, said: “I want to reassure everyone that this past technical issue – which we’ve fixed now – didn’t affect the outcome of anyone’s review. Where necessary, grades were still changed.
“Reviews of marking are only carried out by our best, most experienced examiners who are very unlikely to have made mistakes in their original marking – and, in the vast majority of cases, we’re talking about one isolated, anonymised answer from a paper being reviewed by the senior examiner who originally marked it.
“But reviews should always be carried out by a fresh pair of eyes and we’re sorry that, for a small proportion in the past, this wasn’t the case. We’ve made sure we got it right this summer, just as we did after last year’s November exams.”