From the archives – the origins of returning marked school exam papers

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Before this case, school students had to lodge an Official Information Act (OIA) request to receive their marked exam papers – or scripts – after an exam.

In 1984, 134 students asked the Department of Education and the Minister of Education to return their School Certificate scripts under the OIA. They refused, so 12 students complained to the Ombudsman. Their main reasons for wanting the scripts back were to understand where they had gone wrong and to understand the marking methods.

The Ombudsman considered the reasons given by the department and minister, that:

  • it wasn't in the public interest
  • they had promised the markers their marks would be in confidence
  • School Certificate was an "award".

They were also concerned that if these scripts were released, they would be inundated with tens of thousands of requests once the general public found out. Further, as they stored over 300,000 marked scripts in three locations, getting them back might be an overwhelming amount of work.

The Ombudsman recommended that the scripts be returned to the students and suggested ways that the department could do this effectively at a larger scale in the future.     

The department implemented the recommendation and later changed its policy so all students received their marked exam scripts by default.

Read the full case note

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