After undercover reporters found evidence of exam boards giving secret advice to teachers on how to achieve better grades for their pupils at a series of seminars, two examiners at the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA (OCR) board have been sacked.
And now, in an attempt to prevent public trust from “evaporating” in wake of the scandal, Mark Dawe, chief executive of OCR, has suggested that the fired examiners may need to be banned from giving seminars to teachers or writing books in future, writes Tim Ross at the Telegraph.
The examiners were found to have “cheated” the system, by giving detailed information on which subjects would be covered in next summer’s history GCSE. This “advice” goes far beyond what the standard guidance deems acceptable, and has left the exam board vulnerable to accusations of undermining the purpose of exam syllabuses by encouraging “teaching to the test”.
After he ordered an inquiry into the inappropriate advice given, Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has suggested he could ban exam boards from competing for business from schools.
“As I’ve always maintained, it is crucial our exams hold their own with the best in the world. We’ll take whatever action is necessary to restore faith in our exam system. Nothing is off the table.”
However, during an investigation by the Commons Education Select Committee, Dawe said the entire examination system relies on public trust, and the public need to be able to trust the people involved – something that has been put at risk thanks to the scandal.
“Generally they are very trustworthy people but if that trust is evaporating then we have to put certain barriers in place.
“It may be we are reaching the point where anyone who has seen a question relating to the future cannot be involved in seminars and books, because they have got that question in their heads.”
While giving evidence, Dawe said that “one or two” examiners out of the 13,000 employed by the organization needed to be “rapidly removed”.
“In the last 18 months, I’m aware of two – one where we felt there was inappropriate information in a textbook, and we binned our exam and rewrote the exam and sacked him. And there was a seminar session where we picked up complaints and again we sacked the examiner.”
While Dawe admitted to not be keen on the idea of banning experts from running seminars for school staff as it would run the risk of stamping down on independent assessment, he said:
“But if we are continuously facing the accusation that they are feeding teachers inappropriate information we are just going to have to do something to make that very clear that’s not the case.”