UK to Scrap Controversial Exam Prep Seminars

In the wake of a Telegraph investigation, Ofqual has banned face to face exam seminars over proof that they jeopardize qualifications.

The Telegraph in the UK has updated its undercover investigation into exam seminars designed to help teachers boots their pupils results. They caught Steph Warren, EdExcel Geography chief examiner, on camera at a seminar in November admitting that her syllabus was so easy that she didn’t know how it got accepted. She has since been sacked. Now Ofqual, the qualifications watchdog has concluded that the exam seminars are an unacceptable risk to the integrity of the exam system and 4,000 such courses a year are to be scrapped and from Septermber 2013 all face-to-face training sessions related to specific qualifications will be banned.

“With privileged information – the inside track – there will always be the risk that those taking part could jeopardise qualifications by saying something about what will be in a future exam paper,” the report said. “And we know that that has happened in practice, because we have seen the evidence of it.”

This privileged information is considered to be the main problem. Examiners were urging teachers to forgo teaching the entire curriculum and instead teach the specific areas that would be tested with a focus on ‘exam technique’. Some went so far as to advise which wording would lead to the best marks. This method of ‘teaching’ doesn’t help the students to learn anything useful and has become a problem throughout the education world, with US advocacy group FairTest recently warning on how widespread and insidious the problem has become.

Even in the light of the evidence filmed by the Telgraph and the damning Ofqual report some examiners are unrepentant though, and blame the problems on a small minority of rogue examiners while defending the overall system of charging teachers to learn how best to teach to a specific test.

Mark Dawe, chief executive of the OCR board, said: “OCR’s seminars for teachers were not found to be of concern to the regulator during its investigation. However, we understand the need to take action against the risk of inappropriate behaviour by a handful of rogue examiners as uncovered by The Daily Telegraph.

“We are disappointed that Ofqual has not consulted widely, especially with the teaching profession, in its rushed decision to end face-to-face teacher seminars.”

The seminars were costing between £100 and £200 per teacher and the Ofqual report further claimed that they led to a ‘narrowing of teaching and learning’. Ofqual has confirmed that seven exam papers have had to be delayed and rewritten after the contents were compromised by examiners.

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