Experts give AQA a failing grade over job loss plans

TES, 16/01/15, exam officers fear that a decision by England’s biggest school exam board to slash its operations staff by a third risks jeopardising the reliability of results. HMC General Secretary Dr William Richardson is quoted.

TES has learned that AQA is cutting its operations division from 306 to 204 and that several more staff are leaving through voluntary redundancy.

The Examination Officers’ Association has contacted the board to express alarm about the changes, despite reassurances from AQA that it will be able to deliver the same level of service and support after the cuts.

Andrew Harland, the association’s chief executive, said: “We know that members of the AQA regional support team have gone, so there is clear evidence that they cannot and will not be able to deliver that same valued service. This idea that everything is happy in the garden is not the case at all.”

A senior manager who recently left the exam board expressed similar concerns, and fears errors in results.

“I would expect there to be more mistakes,” the former employee told TES. “It might well mean the wrong marks going out – that things have not been checked properly, that the correct mark has not gone to the appropriate student.”

The former manager, who wished to remain anonymous, predicted long-term problems at AQA because of the amount of experience the board was losing. “The problem is that exams processing is a very complicated business,” the manager said. “You can’t just pull people in off the street to do that work.”

The change from a modular to a linear exam system, with a limit on the number of resits, has placed financial pressure on all school exam boards in England. AQA cut more than 50 jobs from its IT and “change management” departments in October 2013. OCR also began a major wave of job losses that month and Edexcel has conducted its own staffing review in response to the exam reforms.

The job cuts have come at a time when boards are under pressure from a campaign to improve the quality of marking. William Richardson, general secretary of the independent schools’ Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, which is leading the campaign, said: “Any reductions in staffing that might affect either the reliability of results issued, or schools’ inquiries where there is a concern about results, are a backwards step.”

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