Exam credibility

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IT is a constant source of regret that the great accomplishments of A-level and GCSE pupils, many of whom have overcome considerable personal odds, are always overshadowed by claims that exams now lack rigor.

This is now compounded by disturbing claims that some examiners were giving detailed advice to teachers at seminars on likely questions – and how their students could achieve higher marks to preserve, or enhance, their school’s league table position.

Some perspective is required. There has always been a dialogue between examiners and schools, and it would have been remiss of a teacher not to appraise their students of probable themes.

However, there is a world of difference between this and the allegation that some examiners gave detailed advice on intended questions – an assertion, if proven, that only serves to undermine, still further, the credibility of exam boards following a series of unacceptable mistakes in the setting of this summer’s papers.

That the Government now intends to reform this process will be welcomed by many, though it should be noted that it was a previous Conservative administration that paved the way for a proliferation of exam boards which would then effectively compete on the open market for schools to enter their pupils.

As such, many will agree with the National Association of Head Teachers’ general secretary, Russell Hobby, when he says: “Education is not a business, learning is not a product and children are not customers.”

The challenge is finding a way to regain the integrity of the exams process at a time of financial restraint. Whatever happens, the wrongdoing witnessed this year must never be repeated if future grades are to be an accurate reflection of a child’s capabilities and the prowess of their teachers.