Friday, 24 October 2008

Ofqual should be raising standards, not telling exam boards to lower them

Schools Secretary Ed Balls established Ofqual shortly after taking up post to reassure the public about exam standards. If a story in today's Times Educational Supplement is to be believed, it is going a funny way about it. The AQA exam board claims it was told to reduce the borderline for a grade C in one GCSE science paper to bring it into line with other exam boards. Shouldn't Ofqual have told the other boards to raise their game instead?

But the bigger issue this raises once again is why the boards aren't allowed simply to set boundaries for exams that everyone can understand: when I did my school exams in Ireland it was 40% for a D pass, 55% for a C, 70% for a B and 85% for an A. I understand all the arguments about why so much effort goes into altering the boundaries after the exam. Yet it ought surely to be possible to decide the boundaries in advance? It would certainly lift the credibility of the exam system in an instant.

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