Monday 30 June 2008

Effing examiners need to get a grip

Today's news that Peter Buckroyd, chief examiner of English for the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) tells his examiners to award students marks when they write swear words like 'f*** off' (and nothing else) on their exam papers is grist to the mill of those who doubt the robustness and integrity of our exam system.

The Times reports Mr Buckroyd as saying: "It would be wicked to give it zero, because it does show some very basic skills we are looking for – like conveying some meaning and some spelling. It’s better than someone that doesn’t write anything at all. It shows more skills than somebody who leaves the page blank.” By the same token, I suppose, a student who hits a teacher is showing more dexterity than a student who sits quietly in the classroom and behaves himself, and should therefore be rewarded for his PE skills.

But such stupidity does not represent the exam boards' worst offence. The swearing student will only receive a few worthless marks. A far greater problem is the absurd way in which the boards change the marks attached to each grade every year after the event, rather than trying to set the standard before students sit their exams and stick to it.

A few years ago, I offered some thoughts on how the exam system could regain credibility through consistency, in particular:
Pass marks should stay the same from one year to the next. Students should know that 50 per cent will always be a C at GCSE or a level 4 in the key stage 2 tests. Such change would require better preparation of the exam papers to ensure that the difficulty of questions is maintained, but that effort would be a small price to pay.
To greater transparency and consistency, one might add a large dose of nous, a quality apparently in short supply at the AQA these days.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

State education eh? We'd be lost without it.