UK Exam Boards’ Relationship with Publishers to be Inspected

Traditionally in the UK, each exam board has a "partner" publishing company, and with that they recommend the use of their textbooks. Publishers often find these endorsements highly valuable because teachers feel pressured to buy their products to achieve the best grades, writes Holly Watt and Claire Newell at the Telegraph.

The textbooks are often written by the chief examiners, who then set the exams. But now, in the wake of the examiner's teacher-advice scandal last week, these relationships are now under scrutiny.

When undercover reporters from The Daily Telegraph attended an event held by WJEC, the speaker announced:

"Outside, you will find Rita from Hodder, and she wants you to know that this particular book, A Plus, although it doesn't say so specifically, is matched up by Hodder to the specification such as it is."

The speaker added that the Hodder representative would have "one or two freebies if you speak to her nicely".

The textbooks boast of "clear advice from senior examiners on improving performance" and "exam tips throughout to keep students on track with the exam requirements".

Many of the books include "examiners' tips" to set out exactly what is required in the exam, writes Watt and Newell.

David Burton, the deputy head teacher at St Michael's Church of England High School in Crosby, Liverpool believes that the current system, whereby books are endorsed by exam boards, puts a lot of pressure on teachers and pupils, feeling as though they must have these expensive textbooks.

"You see books marked ‘endorsed by Edexcel', ‘endorsed by OCR', and you think I'd better get that one.''

Despite Hodder stating on its website that it is the "exclusive publishing partner of WJEC", the WJEC denied that Hodder was an exclusive partner and said:

"The claim made by Hodder in relation to exclusivity is untrue. The matter will be taken up with them immediately."

The OCR also said it had no commercial relationship with the publisher Heinemann.

"These relationships were developed to ensure that our customers had good quality books and resources ready for first teaching," said a spokesman.

Andrew Hall, the chief executive of AQA, said the contract with Nelson Thornes "was agreed at a time when there had been a major revision of the content of qualifications'', referring to the deal signed in 2005, which saw Nelson Thornes' turnover jump by £6 million.

12 14, 2011
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