Heads fear fresh exam fiasco

In an article in the Sunday Times, 02/06/13, HMC expresses its lack of confidence in the examination system.

In a letter to The Sunday Times today, the heads of schools including Eton, Wellington and Marlborough say they have a duty to make pupils and parents aware that “problems in the marking and grading of public exams” are widespread across subjects and exam boards.

“For several years we have been worried about the robustness of the ‘examinations industry’ in England,” they write.

“We have concerns about erratic examiners and unexplained swings in results. There are also concerns that it is easier to get top grades with some boards than others.”

The letter, which has also been signed by Christopher Ray, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), which represents more than 250 fee-paying schools, bemoans “an unacceptable level of inaccuracy”, adding: “Sometimes faults with the exam system have cost able pupils their university place.”

Last year, thousands of pupils did not receive their expected grades in GCSE English. They were offered the chance to resit the exam and a teaching union challenged the results in the High Court.

On Friday, Ofqual, the exams regulator, plans to release research designed to reassure teachers the exam marking for A-levels and GCSEs this summer can be trusted.

Glenys Stacey, chief executive of Ofqual, said she accepted that confidence in GCSEs had been dented but insisted the research showed there was “a lot to be confident about”.

However, Tony Little, headmaster of Eton, said: “I am afraid exam marking has been a worry for several years and it continues to be a worry.”

Members of the HMC met Ofqual last week to suggest five ways of improving the system. Ray, also high master of Manchester Grammar School, said: “Progress is extremely slow and we are not convinced that enough has been done.”

By Sian Griffiths, Sunday Times. Click here to read the article © Sunday Times.