The director of external affairs at Ofqual is Francis Thomas and he has recently spoken out against exam boards. He has said, “Parliament have just passed a law which gives us the ability to fine exam boards but this is not the ultimate sanction that we want to have. We want to be able to shut down exam boards that are not living up to their expectations.
“We need the ability to assess the evidence as to whether the qualifications business is acting in a way that is damaging for the education establishment. Depending on the scale of the misconduct we want to be able to not only fine them but also ban their exam papers from the market.”
It has recently been discovered that some students who will be taking examinations in the New Year might have their papers cancelled because they were given poor guidance over what questions to expect. If Ofqual had increased powers it would be possible to deal with the problem of conflicting interests much easier.
Glenys Stacey has recently appeared in a BBC interview and she has commented, “What we’ve found is that examiners are telling teachers what questions are likely to appear on the exam papers and this is completely unacceptable.” In recent months two examiners for history have been suspended as it has been feared they were engaging in corrupt practices.
The Daily Telegraph covertly filmed the examiners running a workshop which teachers could attend and they were given information on what questions might come up and how to phrase answers to achieve maximum marks.
One of the men who was suspended was Paul Evans who is one of the chief examiners in Wales. While being secretly filmed the openly stated, “Every year there are compulsory questions and we are going to tell you the cycle in which they come up. Essentially what we are doing here is cheating and the regulator would certainly take issue with it.”
The Welsh exam board has said that it is investigating the circumstances of these comments in a serious and urgent matter. The education secretary, Michael Gove has said that The Daily Telegraph has shown that the system itself is corrupt and it has been discredited.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister has said, “It is very clear to us that the exam system is in need of reform. The government is committed to taking any action necessary to make sure that the faith in the examination system is restored.”
Essentially, what this activity by exam board has meant is that teachers are only teaching part of the syllabus – the part that is going to come up on the exams. This is very much away from the fundamental idea that the entire course should be taught.
Geoff Lucas used to be the head of the Communication and Curriculum Authority and he recently commented, “Giving teachers guidance and telling them what is going to appear in the exam paper are two very different things. It is a line that should not be crossed.”