Examiners give their side of 'cheating' story

15 Dec 2011

 I watched with great interest today's Education Select Committee hearing into The Daily Telegraph's 'sting' which - if you remember - alleged cheating by GCSE examiners during training sessions run by the exam boards for the benefit of teachers.

The underlying theme of the story was that competition for market share had driven examiners to offer undue help to teachers or to claim their own exams were easier than those of their rivals. Teachers paid up to £230 a day to attend training courses run by examiners.

 The Telegraph's story had seemed an example of good investigative reporting and appeared to offer a strong case of malpractice. However, today's evidence from the three suspended examiners - and their bosses - showed that this is a complex issue. 

  The examiners  - who it should be pointed out are teachers not full-time members of staff of the exam boards - seemed to win some sympathy for the way they had been treated. They said they had not been shown the evidence or the allegations before the story was published and were not given the chance to give their version of events.

 The Daily Telegraph has not yet published the full video evidence of the training sessions their undercover journalists secretly recorded. This is significant as the examiners claim they were quoted out of context.

Paul Barnes, of the Welsh WJEC Board, said nothing he had told the teachers was a 'breach of my duties' and insisted he had been 'misrepresented'. He said no exam paper had been compromised and not one question had been breached.

Paul Evans, also of the WJEC, said he had been accused of saying that exam questions would go through a cycle in future years and  there would be certain compulsory questions in 2012. But he explained that in saying this he was doing no more  than 'reporting what was already public knowledge' as it was available on the board's website. He insisted: 'I did not breach confidentiality'.

Steph Warren, a geography examiner for Edexcel, had been accused of saying that her board's exams did not require much teaching and were easier than those of rival boards. She said she did 'regret' the comments she had made about the exam specification being 'easier', but that these comments were made outside the formal training session and in the 'heat of the moment'. She added 'it was an inappropriate comment. I deeply regret making it'.

She also insisted that the training sessions were not telling the teachers anything that amounted to cheating but were about explaining the detailed specification of the exam. 

When the exam board chiefs gave evidence, they were asked if the training courses for teachers were profit-making. They all said they made a loss. Edexcel said it made a loss of about £2 million on the courses.

 While no-one denied there was competition between the exam boards, they insisted they were not driven by market share. The spokesman for Edexcel said competition was driven by the 'price, service and  support' offered by the boards - it was this which  determined which board schools turned to.

User Comments

Ian - 15 Dec 2011

Exam boards

I am a head of department and we are under so much pressure to get A*-C results. I seriously looked at one board as we could gain a 10% increase in results by switching. Is the answer a Government run exam system? I don't think so as the Government, no doubt, will manipulate the results for their own purposes.

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