Ofqual disbands standards committee

Exams watchdog to take a 'more flexible approach' on policy advice

Exams watchdog to take a 'more flexible approach' on policy advice


Ofqual is disbanding its committee of experts who advise on exam standards and will instead take a “more flexible approach” on policy advice.

The standards advisory group (SAG), a committee of the Ofqual board, was set up more than a decade ago to help the exams watchdog maintain the standards of qualifications.

Members included independent assessment specialists from leading exam boards and universities, including Dr Mike Cresswell, ex-chief executive of the exam board AQA, and Professor Jo-Anne Baird, director of the University of Oxford’s Department of Education.

But Ofqual confirmed this week the committee will be replaced to reflect the watchdog’s “broader remit”, such as expansions in vocational and technical qualifications as well as apprenticeships.

It will take a “more flexible approach, drawing on a range of experts for specific programmes of work.

This will continue to provide Ofqual with objective external advice as needed.

”This could include working with experts who already advise the regulator or introducing new ones to ensure “that we can use the right people for the right work” in assessment.

Professor Barnaby Lenon, a former member of the committee, said the move was a “good decision” as long as the experts “are still used to help Ofqual think outside their bubble”.

“Assessment methodology is an arcane but important science. The few experts that exist, often lurking in dusty cupboards on the periphery of exam boards, are really important.

“The best have memories that go back decades and can recall what has worked and what has (often) been a disaster.

They often have international experience and can draw on that to provide some perspective on England’s systems.”

Another committee member, Dr Tina Isaacs, honorary senior lecturer in educational assessment at the UCL Institute of Education, was also supportive.

“My impression is that it wants to be more nimble and get expert opinions – many of which I believe will come from former SAG members – in a more proactive way.”

Other recent members include Daisy Christodoulou, director at No More Marking, William Pointer, AQA’s head of standards and awarding, and Isabel Sutcliffe, former international standards and quality director at Pearson.

Ofqual has faced much upheaval following criticism over decisions and communication during the Covid exam fiascos.

Dr Jo Saxton is the third chief regulator since Sally Collier resigned in August 2020.

The regulator also confirmed this week that Michael Hanton, its strategy executive
director who joined in 2013, has been promoted to deputy chief regulator.

He replaced Julie Swan who left for the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Hanton said he “firmly” believes “in the value of good regulation in securing quality and fairness for all those who take and use qualifications”.

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