11KBW silks go head-to-head as GCSE judicial review is thrown out

11KBW silks Clive Lewis QC and Nigel Giffin QC have seen off a judicial review application argued by set-mate Clive Sheldon QC over the GCSE English grades controversy.


Clive Sheldon QC
Clive Sheldon QC

Lord Justice Elias handed down his judgment this morning rejecting a bid from school leaders, teachers’ unions and councils to change grade boundaries in GCSE English exams. It would have meant changing an estimated 10,000 results from last summer.

Sheldon had launched the judicial review on behalf of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), led by Lewisham Council in-house lawyer Troy Robinson and including a number of local authorities.

The application brought in a number of defendants.

Exam board Edexcel instructed dispute resolution partner and judicial review solicitor advocate Andrew Lidbetter of Herbert Smith, with Giffin leading Christopher Knight, also of 11KBW.

Educational services provider AQA instructed Eversheds partner Bill Gilliam and senior associate Siân Jones-Davies with 11KBW’s Lewis leading Jane Oldham of the same set.

Exam regulator Ofqual instructed Wragge & Co public law and regulation partner John Cooper, who turned to Helen Mountfield QC of Matrix Chambers.

In bringing the judicial review application, Sheldon led Joanne Clement and Joseph Barratt, both also of the same set.

Representing interested parties, the exam board Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations was 11KBW silk Peter Oldham QC, instructed by CMS dispute resolution partner Omar Qureshi.

The significant 11KBW involvement meant a Chinese wall was set up in chambers (11 December 2012).

The case was brought as a ‘rolled-up hearing’ because of the urgency of the matter. This meant permission to bring the judicial review and the subsequent application, which are usually heard separately, were ruled on together.

Following the ruling, Gilliam said: “This case is one of the most significant for the education sector in many years and has been followed closely by examining boards, education establishments and students.

“The court found that AQA Education carried out its functions entirely properly and made the right decisions in the awarding process under review. The judgment confirmed that ‘there was no unfairness, conspicuous or otherwise, in what they did’ and the court was satisfied that the examiners in June made assessments which they thought fairly reflected the standard of the scripts.”