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Roland Martin - Issue #16

Exam regulation reform: making it impossible for boards to be accountable?

Roland Martin

March 22 · Issue #16 · View online
Headmaster - City of London Freemen's school; Chief Officer - City of London - '...write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing' Benjamin Franklin

Exam regulation reform: making it impossible for boards to be accountable?

'Fundamentally Flawed'
The NAHT (National Association of Headteachers) and HMC (Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference) stood shoulder to shoulder at the end of last week to issue a joint statement regarding examination regulation reforms.  They did well not to put the word reform into inverted commas.
PRESS RELEASE: Proposed exam regulation reforms are “fundamentally flawed”, will increase unfairness and harm students’ life chances, say school heads - HMC
In essence, examination boards would seem to have become a little spooked by the number of complaints that they have received about the marks that hard-working children have been receiving; it seems that rather than produce a policy that might ensure higher standards in the quality of marking for exam papers, they have come up with a policy that makes it futile to question a grading.  As my former Geography teacher, who has risen from the dizzy heights of teaching me about the Dorset coast in the 80s to Chair the HMC succinctly states, “The approach seems to be: ‘we have too many complaints; let’s make it harder to complain.’ This is no way to restore confidence in fairness and accuracy.”
More than 90,000 exam grades changed - BBC News
One of the reasons that these august bodies are going into bat on this one is the sheer number of changes that are made: more than 90,000 A Level and GCSE results were changed on appeal in 2015, which is up by 17% on 2014; more disconcertingly, inaccuracy in marking has risen a mere 260% over the last five years.  
Not surprising that associations that represent Headteachers - who know a bit about standards - and who represent teachers - who know a bit about what their students might be capable of attaining - are concerned.
And is it surprising that the results are not accurate when the fact that examination boards have been struggling to recruit markers is so well documented?
Ofqual letter reveals scale of exam board's marking crisis | Education | The Guardian
I’m not sure that pupils who might miss out on University places, or parents who often pick up the pieces at home when their children do not get the grades they deserve, will be entirely convinced by the suggestion that marks should stand, during review, if considered ‘reasonable’ by 'a second employee of the examination board’ rather than receive a re-mark.  Where accountability is concerned, isn’t this rather dodging an issue?  
Much as I can see that examination boards will be delighted to report that The Class of 2016 - examiners that is, rather than pupils - manage not to elicit quite so many marking mistakes than in previous years, it seems that just refusing to re-mark the papers is hiding the rot rather than dealing with it.  I would rather expect that both pupils and parents - as well as Headteachers and their common rooms - will find a little more reasonable the General Secretary of NAHT’s assertion that, “Students are entitled to a system that gets the marks right first time and is easy to challenge if something goes awry. Their futures depend on this, and their hard work demands it.“
Teachers spend their careers trying to raise bars; isn’t the message coming to us from Ofsted regarding these reforms, suggesting that their own bar is rather low..?
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