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Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) Releases Annual Report on Performance

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has released its second annual report on the performance of the three main awarding bodies- AQA, Edexcel and OCR- for GCSE and A Level qualifications.

The QCA has established performance expectations that awarding bodies must meet and has published a code of practice that they must follow. The report highlights several findings; the first of which is that all three awarding bodies provided a satisfactory level of service to centres. However, the report finds some areas requiring improvement as well. While all three awarding bodies managed to dispatch the question papers on time, 40 out of the 3,300 question papers had errors in them. Edexcel failed to issue errata notices for nine of its question papers falling within this area.

Meeting Expectations

The QCA also expects the awarding bodies to provide copies of A Level question papers to help decide results within 10 days before the date for enquires on results can start to be made. This year, just over 32,000 requests for copies of GCE or VCE examination papers were made. AQA and OCR both met QCAs performance expectation. There was a slight delay in sending out copies of 30 Edexcel examination papers.

Many candidates find coursework a more convenient form of assessment, but the QCA report found several issues that they deemed causes for concern. Firstly, the level of help and advice offered to candidates on producing a higher quality of coursework by teachers and parents varies. Secondly, that guidance detailing what is permitted is limited, and thirdly, that teachers have a limited understanding of what constitutes malpractice. The report also identified the Internet as a powerful aid to learning, but also acknowledged the need to control the potential for plagiarism arising from its use.

Electronic Resources

Further, this year Edexcel had used electronic processes to mark it GCSE Religious Studies question papers in 2005. The QCA investigated the level of accuracy and efficiency in this new technique, and found that while the system enables more than one person to be involved in marking one examination paper; these markers do not need subject expertise. Allegations were made that staff without the necessary level of expertise performed the role of expert examiners.

However, Edexcel reported that graduate staff had undertaken all additional experts marking of GCSE religious studies, and that more than 50 per cent of the Edexcel staff used to mark were qualified teachers. The QCA also conducted a scrutiny programme last year on all three awarding bodies and issued 18 reports (6 for each board) which covered specifications and recommendations on question papers and marking schemes; ways to mark exam papers and coursework and grading candidates.

Action Plans

The QCA set deadlines for the awarding bodies to produce action plans on how they will work to meet the recommendations. For this, the QCA had arranged to observe awarding meetings. As in 2004, QCA did not identify any significant instances of non-compliance from the observation of awarding meetings. Overall, all awarding bodies established grade boundaries using professional judgement based on the quality of candidates” work and informed by relevant technical and statistical information. However, the QCA still found a small dearth in the provision of samples of candidates” work, for the new vocational subjects taken at GCSE level, in a small number of meetings.

In facilitating accessibility for candidates with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Learning Difficulties and Disabilities (LDD), the QCA found the total number of awarding body – approved arrangements for 2005 was very similar to the equivalent period for 2004 (104,907 in 2005 compared with 103,818 in 2004). These figures include those candidates who were affected by an unforeseen and temporary illness, injury or incident at the time of the examination.

However, the total number of requests for special consideration in 2005 was slightly lower than for the equivalent period in 2004. It represents around 1.2 % of the total number of examination papers completed for the June 2005 examination series, or less than one approved request for every 80 examination papers. The QCA also found that between September 2004 and August 2005, there were more than 43,000 candidates with centre- delegated arrangements, which include providing bilingual dictionaries and supervised rest breaks.

The QCA report also covers malpractice by candidates and centres. It found that the awarding bodies penalised more than 4,500 (AQA: 1897, Edexcel: 888, OCR: 1762) candidates for malpractice in exams and coursework; the maximum type of offence being bringing unauthorised material into an examination room. The number of incidents of centre malpractice was very low, and two awarding bodies de-registered a centre in 2005.

In conclusion, the QCA has decided to issue a set of guidelines to deal with the aforementioned situations, so as to improve and introduce new expectations to ensure high levels of customer service and satisfaction continue.

Sudakshina Mukherjee

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