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Ofqual outlines measures to ensure future exam quality

Following an inquiry into the exam system, qualifications watchdog Ofqual has published two reports detailing the investigations into this summer’s GCSE and A Level results.

According to the reports, candidates received the right grades on the whole, and the exam boards’ question papers processes met regulatory requirements.

However, the inquiry exposes quality assurances issues in all exam boards and identifies a number of risk factors around the procedures in practice.

These factors include insufficient focus on quality early in the question paper process, leading to changes being made late and a lack of clarity around the roles, responsibilities and accountability for those involved in the process.

In order to protect future exam series, Ofqual has called for action to improve the control of exam papers.

Each exam board is being required to address the weaknesses found in their operations, and they have also been asked to give regulators assurances on the additional checking measures that they have implemented to secure error-free papers for the January and summer 2012 series, with regular progress reports.

Following the errors that occurred in a small number of GCSE and A level exam papers this summer Glenys Stacey, Ofqual’s chief executive, said: “Our inquiry has found that, while exam board processes are basically sound, there are specific areas which do need addressing to reduce the risk of errors.

“We have identified a number of actions the exam boards must take in order to protect the quality of future exam seasons. These actions are proportionate and specific to each exam board.”

The report also outlines the actions taken so far following allegations in the Daily Telegraph that examiners were revealing the content of future exams at seminars held for teachers.

The inquiry identifies that inappropriate information about a GCSE ICT paper from WJEC due to be sat in January had been shared.

Ofqual has said that to protect the integrity and security of the qualification the regulators will make sure this paper is withdrawn, amended and sat at a later date. This, however, will not impact when candidates will be able to finish their full GCSE course.

Commenting on this issue, Stacey said: “We welcome the work that the Daily Telegraph has done to bring these concerns to light. The information provided is a valuable contribution to our wider programme of work, already underway, into possible conflicts of interests among exam boards.

“This update outlines our initial plans and findings and the actions taken to protect future exams. Where we have found evidence that a question paper has been compromised we have taken action.”

Also commenting on the Ofqual investigations, Stephen Twigg, Labour Shadow Education Secretary, said: “The Daily Telegraph has done a public service through their work on this investigation to raise the problem. We now need a clear plan from the Government on how to solve it.

“I welcome the fact that Ofqual has responded to immediate concerns and taken robust action over an ICT GCSE. However, we now need to have confidence that there are not wider problems with the system.”

Aastha Gill

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