My Big Mouth: Exam boards should become one


SW Londoner takes a look at how multiple exam boards are impacting pass rates.


By Katriona Ormiston

It is hard to hear the news that exam pass rates rose for the 23rd year in a row without thinking skeptically. Can it really be the case that the population is becoming unwaveringly more intelligent year after year?

There should not be multiple exam boards but one regulated system.

Grades are not reflective of intellect because of the business-minded way exam boards are run.

There are five main exam boards operating in Britain’s schools, including AQA, ORC, Edexel, WJEC and CCEA, regulated by an independent body called the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual).

Ofqual is a non-departmental body sponsored by the Department of Education. It claimed to have overhauled their regulation system in May 2011 but despite this, yet again, results rose.

The real question is perhaps how exactly exam boards can be regulated considering their overall aim: money-making.

National qualifications should not be set by private companies who need to attract schools to choose their commodity.

The Guardian revealed evidence in 2009 that teachers can “play the system” by choosing easier exam boards for their students.

A Yorkshire teacher in 2005 switched exam boards for an easier alternative and saw his students pass rates double in the next few years.

The best way for exam boards to attract clientele is unproductive: good results come from lenient mark schemes as well as time, money and energy spent on marketing campaigns rather than mistake-free exam papers and monitoring marking.

Ofqual is investigating six errors that have appeared in exam papers this summer. It claims it monitors standards closely enough to ensure exams are equally difficult.

The problem with such an issue is the fact that for many, good results are a good thing. Less thought is given to the quality of the work behind them.

This is particularly the case for politicians, whose jobs rely on the ability to say that they have raised the quality of teaching through their sound educational policies, of which these climbing results would be evidence.

Merton Council boasted an 8% improvement from its secondary schools this year. This is however in line with a national trend.

Of greater significance is the fact that, compared with the improvements of other London schools, Merton’s improvement was in the top two.

This is alongside the consideration that politicians are not in touch with such issues; most senior politicians went through Britain’s education system when times were tougher.

Prime Minister David Cameron had finished in the education system by the time results began to climb.

Many politicians also went to Private schools – Cameron went to Eton – whose educational standards are generally higher. They may not fully appreciate the problem of sinking intellect.

Perhaps it is the case that the government is content in ignorant bliss and beckon Britain’s students to join them.




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