Concern over schools ‘undermining’ exams

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THE EXAMS regulator is to survey teachers about “malpractice” and strategies used by schools to ensure they maximise their test results.

Ofqual’s chief executive Glenys Stacey said it had concerns both about schools breaking the rules and also about activity which was not malpractice but which could undermine credibility in exams.

She told MPs yesterday that malpractice was increasing and that Ofqual suspected the full scale of the problem was not being reported. Ms Stacey also said she regularly gets told of concerns about “what is going on at the school down the road” when she speaks to teachers.

The anonymous survey has been launched this week to allow Ofqual to get a better picture about what is happening.

An Ofqual statement said: “There is evidence, some anecdotal, about how some of these strategies might undermine qualification standards. We want to get a better understanding of what happens in schools and what teachers think about approaches to maximising results; some of which are seen as acceptable and others which are recognised by teachers as pushing the boundaries, or even breaking the rules.

“We want this short survey to enable us to work better to achieve a more level playing field in GCSEs and A levels.”

Ofqual bosses appeared before the Education Select Committee today to discuss the simultaneous reform of GCSE and A-level. Ms Stacey dismissed concerns that too much change was happening at once.

She said Ofqual had helped to ensure that only three new GCSE qualifications were being reformed this year: English Literature, English Language and maths. The new exams are set to be taught in schools for the first time in 2015 with the first exams being sat in 2017. Ms Stacey said there was “no slippage” with the programme and the specifications for the new qualifications would be sent to schools during the Autumn term later this year.

She said that there was less change being implemented in A-levels with subjects being “refreshed” and courses being moved to a more linear system - where assessment is done at the end of the course.

More GCSEs will be reformed after 2015.

Exam boards have submitted their plans for the new GCSEs following guidance published by the Department for Education.

It has been the source of a row amid claims that Michael Gove had banned more modern American texts such as Of Mice and Men - something which the Education Secretary denied.

Although there is nothing to stop schools teaching 20th century American books the new criteria for the English Literature GCSE produced by the Department for Education does call pupils to be taught fiction or drama from the British Isles from 1914 onwards. Critics of Mr Gove say such guidance will not leave space for 20th century work produced outside the UK.