UK Chief Examiner Admits to Inadequate Curriculum Content

A Daily Telegraph investigation of ‘cheating’ within UK exam boards has uncovered that Steph Warren, a senior official at Edexcel, told an undercover reporter posing as a teacher who was considering using the firm’s tests that “you don’t have to teach a lot” and that there is a “lot less” for pupils to learn, writes Claire Newell, Holly Watt, Robert Winnett and Graeme Paton at the Telegraph.

Miss Warren, admitted that she did not know “how we [Edexcel] got it through” the Government’s official regulation system.

It was earlier uncovered that teachers across the country have been paying up to £230 a day to attend seminars with chief examiners, where they are given tips and advice on exam questions and the exact wording that pupils should use to obtain higher marks.

“We are very clear that our exam system needs fundamental reform,” said a Department of Education spokesman.

“The revelations we have seen today show our current system is discredited. We are very clear we will take whatever action is necessary to restore faith in the exam system.”

Examination standards regulator, Ofqual, is currently compiling a report andis set to make recommendations for urgent reform to Education Secretary Michael Gove in the next couple of weeks.

Francis Thomas, the director of internal and external affairs at Ofqual, said:

“We need to look at the evidence and assess whether, at one end of the scale, this is systematic right through the qualifications business or is this just one or two rogue operators who have gone beyond their brief.

“Depending where it is on that scale we have the powers and we will take the action because we do not want to see the confidence in our qualifications system being undermined.”

During an Edexcel geography GCSE training course in Birmingham, the undercover reporter asked Miss Warren why she should pick the exam board, writes the Telegraph.

Miss Warren replied, “It’s very, very traditional, Edexcel, and also, as these two will tell you [indicating to two teachers sitting nearby] you don’t have to teach a lot, do you?”

“No, there’s certainly a lot less content,” one teacher then said.

Miss Warren added: “Yes, in fact there’s so little we don’t know how we got it through [the exam regulators]. And I’m deadly serious about that. When I looked at it I thought, ‘how is this ever going to get through?’”

Another teacher concluded: “It’s a lot less, it’s a lot smaller, and that’s why a lot of people came to us.”

Edexcel recorded profits of more than £60 million in 2010. A spokesman for Pearson said:

“We do not see a conflict between our education goals and our commercial success. We believe they are mutually reinforcing. Our commitment to upholding standards and our ability to develop rigorous qualifications are fuelled by our financial performance.”

As exam boards grow in commercial profits and popularity, the number of children achieving top grades had soared.

This summer, 8.2 per cent of students who took the exam were awarded an A* at A-level, while more than a quarter of exams scored at least an A. Over the past 15 years, the number of pupils achieving at least one A at A-level has risen by about 11 percent.

2010 saw more than 370,000 A* grades achieved at GCSE, compared with 114,000 in 1994.