Exam watchdog given power to stop delays

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TOUGH NEW powers are to be given to the Government's examinations watchdog in a bid to avoid an exams fiasco this summer.

Ministers are giving the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority the power to intervene and order exam boards to speed up the carrying out of marking checks, ensure results get to schools on time, and insist on stringent proof-reading of papers to avoid errors. The authority will also be given the right to seek a court order if an exam board refuses to comply with its request.

In the past, the QCA has been called in once errors have been exposed – as in the case of the Edexcel exam board earlier this year when a series of blunders were spotted in its exam papers.

However, a source at the Department for Education and Skills said: "They will now be able to intervene directly and issue instructions and orders to the exam boards. It will be a monitoring role so they can foresee problems and deal with them before they become real problems."

* The QCA was forced to apologise yesterday after national curriculum test papers for 14-year-olds arrived four days late at Halyard High School in Luton. An investigation is under way.