Ban targets exam boards passing tips to teachers

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The Independent Online

Exam boards are to be banned from holding face-to-face seminars with teachers in a bid to stop tips about forthcoming A-level and GCSE questions being passed on.

The ban is announced today by Ofqual, the exams regulator, in the wake of an exposé by a national newspaper which claimed "inappropriate information" was being routinely passed on to teachers.

The ban will come into force from August 2013 – with stricter monitoring of seminars in the meantime.

A report of Ofqual's investigation into the allegations said: "Seminars concentrating on a specific qualifications present unacceptable risks to the wider education system. There is a real risk that inappropriate information about the future content of secure exams is disclosed. And there is a risk of narrowing the curriculum through sessions on how to teach the specification."

One exam scheduled for January had to be postponed because tips had been passed on to teachers.

Two exemptions will be made to the ban – where exam boards are offering training to teachers to help them mark assessments of pupils' work; and where exam boards are marketing new qualifications.

"The new rules will make sure that schools and teachers have access to the information they need to understand the exams their pupils are taking," said Glenys Stacey, Ofqual's chief regulator. "However, they should not get privileged information by attending face-to-face events with those who set the questions."

Ofqual acknowledged that private companies – unregulated by it – could set up their own seminars after the ban. It encouraged the boards to disseminate information about their qualifications to teachers online.