HMC hails Ofqual report as vindication of campaign on marking standards

The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) has today welcomed the publication of Ofqual’s report Review of Quality of Marking in Exams as vindication of its high profile campaign to shine a light on failings in the public examination system.

Commenting on the publication, HMC General Secretary, Dr William Richardson, said: “We are pleased that after seventeen months, Ofqual has acknowledged, and begun to address, some of the failings that HMC has been highlighting. For too long, supervision of the examinations industry in England has failed teachers, parents and, most importantly, students.  This has been due to permissive attitudes toward the exam boards - one that is insufficient to ensure consistency and quality in marking and grading of exams or in the fairness and rigour of the appeals process. ”

HMC first published a dossier in September 2012* which detailed the concerns that Heads had as to the approach being adopted by the regulator. It catalogued concerns about the quality of marking; the inconsistency of standards between different exam boards; and a complete lack of transparency in the process when pupils appealed against the grades that they had been awarded.

It revealed that in an alarming number of cases, the system was failing students by awarding them inaccurate grades. It further suggested that insult was being added to injury as a result of a strict adherence to process rather than an insistence on high quality marking in the appeals process.+

Ofqual responded by launching a review early in 2013 and in April HMC followed up its initial work by submitting to Ofqual five immediate and affordable recommendations to reform the system. Today’s report from Ofqual provides its response to those recommendations.

“Progress has been made in all five areas”, Dr Tim Hands, chairman of HMC, remarked. “We are confident that without our intervention, an unacceptable situation would have continued. Our members look forward to working with Ofqual to ensure that today’s good intentions are translated into real reform. However, there have been too many false dawns for us to be confident that the job is yet done, and we are far from convinced that the measures now proposed are either sufficiently robust or will be implemented with appropriate speed”.

“Without decisive action of this kind, the danger remains that the government’s  fundamental reform of the exam system – due to come on stream in 2015 – will suffer from the same lack of public confidence in which current qualifications are held.”

As things stand, HMC remains very concerned that appeals against results are rising, combined with a rapid increase in grade changes upon appeals.  Meanwhile, teacher and parent confidence in exams is falling.




Notes to Editors

The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, established in 1869, is the oldest and largest (in pupil numbers) of the UK independent schools’ associations.  Its 260 members include most of the largest and most successful senior co-educational boys’ and girls’ schools and educate more than 200,000 children.