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Parents look for Smooth Running as well as Top Results, says Survey

The nation was gripped by the fevered debate on exam result league tables at A Level and GCSE, with the rising level of achievement the cause of a great deal of unrest. Some claimed that the rising results were due to falling standards, others pointed to the education reforms and to innovative teaching techniques and learning resources as reasons for optimism.

In a recent survey, the National Assessment Agency (NAA) has determined that the debate extends beyond simply good results for many parents. The research, carried out by RSGB Omnibus which is part of the TNS Group, has found that parents are equally concerned that the administrative procedure of the exam should be smooth and trouble free. This in no way indicates that exam performance is unimportant; however it does indicate that there are underlying issues that need attention.

The Agency

The agency behind the survey, the NAA, is the agency responsible for the development and delivery of high quality national curriculum tests. They also supervise the delivery and modernisation of the public examination system. The agency decided to commission the study to fully understand the manner in which the examination process is viewed from all sides, to fully appreciate the viewpoints of all those involved in the system.

Of the parents questioned, 91% said that they expected a school or college to deliver a smooth, efficient exam experience. A further 85% of parents were of the opinion that a smooth running exams experience improves each student’s chance of success. This should make interesting reading for those involved in working in colleges and schools, as feedback from those involved (apparently especially the Heads) indicated that they believed that exam administration would not be a major cause for concern.


The managing director of the NAA, David Gee, had this to say in response to the survey: “The NAA has put in place a range of support initiatives for exams officers as the first step to help schools and colleges deliver a smooth running exams process in which students have the very best chance of performing well. However, we believe that schools and colleges can only fully demonstrate effective exams practice with the active participation of the leadership team in setting exams policy and process.”

Amongst the suggestions made by the NAA to improve exam management include greater responsibility and accountability for the exams office and the information it supplies; ensuring an exam policy is in place that details the centres own approach to exams management; recognising the essential work of exams office staff; and fostering understanding between the exam management function and other areas of the school or college.

Sue Kirkham, the President of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Exams are not just about pass rates. A student’s ability to do their best depends on a combination of factors, not only the standard of teaching, but also their overall experience of the exams process. I strongly believe that school leaders need to put in place effective structures and policies to deliver support for the exams process.”

Jethro Marsh

How do you guarantee the quality of exam management in your college? Tell us in the FE Blog

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