Shady examiners and suspicious seminars are nothing new

The conduct of exam boards and freelance examiners has been subject to much scrutiny following the Daily Telegraph’s recent exposé.

Video footage submitted by undercover reporters has shown chief examiners explaining the “cycle” of exam questions to worried teachers, as well as the wording students can use to achieve higher marks.

The seminar, held in London during late November, was said to have been “standing room only” for many who paid hundreds of pounds to attend.

The media coverage and inevitable Twitter backlash quickly enticed Stephen Twigg into attacking Michael Gove yesterday, calling for the Education Secretary to “get a grip” on a scandal “happening under his watch.”

Mr Twigg said: “We have the spectacle of what looks like a culture of corruption in the examination system.

“The chaos in our education system is incredibly worrying for parents, pupils and teachers.”

The Labour Minister should be wary though; unscrupulous examiner behaviour was prevalent in the previous government too.

Warwick Mansell, education journalist at the Guardian and author of ‘Education by Numbers: the Tyranny of Testing’, reported similar malpractice back in 2009.

“This is the third time it’s come out now,” Mr Mansell told FE Week.

“So I’m not surprised it’s still happening to be honest with you, these things get exposed, but it’s a question of whether anyone is actually doing anything.”

Mr Mansell added: “I haven’t picked up on the fact that really anything much has changed.”

The piece in question, available on the Guardian website, has an inevitable sense of déjà vu.

This time the undercover recording, broadcast on Radio 5 Live’s Donal MacIntyre show, involved a language teacher with years of examining experience offering advice to paying teachers on GCSE qualifications.

However, in Mr Mansell’s piece A-level examiners were also brought into the firing line.

The report highlights a conference held by the chief examiner of a leading A-level syllabus, giving advice to teachers on how best to improve student grades.

It therefore seems that examiners, making additional profit based on their examining experience, is nothing new.

The Education Secretary has given Ofqual until Christmas to look into the claims by the Daily Telegraph.

A spokesperson for Ofqual said: “We have introduced new regulations to tighten up the requirements awarding organisations must meet to make sure their commercial activities do not impact on the standards and integrity of qualifications.

“Failure to meet these standards will result in regulatory action.”

With Christmas fast approaching, Mr Twigg won’t have to wait long before he’s given another opportunity to shout.

But a word of warning to the Labour minister – the exam boards scandal maybe happening under the coalition’s ‘watch’, but it happened under Labour’s too.


By Nick Summers

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