Headlines: February 15th, 2005

In a move to get a grip on the unwieldy public examination system, which includes “A” level and “GCSE”, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority commissioned a report in 2003 to find out how much the system was costing and how models could be developed to manage it better. The report by consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers has estimated the cost at 610 million pounds a year. The modelling was abandoned because the examination system was found to be so complex.The consultants noted that one of the main issues for centres and examinations officers is the sheer amount of correspondence they receive. This includes a “huge amount of superfluous or duplicated information”. Among the examples of red-tape, the report highlights exam boards sending schools information three times a week and producing 1,200 different exam documents.

Dr Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said that young people in England faced more exams than in other countries – and that the exam system had become too complex and “confused”.

Although all the awarding bodies are working on ways of rationalising what they send out to centres, a huge amount of superfluous or duplicated information is still despatched. He called for a reduction in the number of exams and for teachers to be accredited to assess pupils within schools. This would cut out the bureaucracy attached to external exams. “It is of vital importance that the government puts more trust in the professionalism of teachers and includes more in-course assessment in final examination grades,” said Dr Dunford.

David Gee, Acting Managing Director of the National Assessment Agency, said: “Both the awarding bodies and NAA are now making substantial investment in change. Significant benefits have been realised since the report was prepared, with markers and examiners receiving better pay, over 3000 exam officers receiving training in good practice, schools having received information about invigilation and 40 regional field officers recruited to visit schools and colleges to ensure that exam officers have the best possible support. There have also been improvements in logistics, with candidates’ scripts now being transported by secure carrier from the school to the examiner.