GCSEs and A-levels 'will be taken online within 10 years'


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The Independent Online

All public examinations - including GCSEs and A-levels - will be taken online within the next decade, an independent education chief is forecasting.

The prediction will come from David Hancock, chief executive of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, when he addresses its annual conference next week.

Mr Hancock, whose members are already piloting their own online version of national tests, will tell his members that the current examination is “not fit for purpose”.

He will argue that ministers were only “tinkering at the edge” of the system and that Glenys Stacey, chief executive of the exams regulator Ofqual, was “trying to make sense of a system that is deeply flawed”.

Marking standards were unreliable and a costly cumbersome procedure had to be set up to make sure competing examination boards were offering qualifications of the same standard.

He said ministers would conclude that the best way to counter-act that would be to set up a national assessment authority offering a national standard of examinations.  All could be sat and marked online to a common standard.  In subjects that involved practical work - like art - the theory could be done online with the practical marked by the teacher.  If there was a wide discrepancy between the two marks, a moderator could be sent in to look at the practical results..

Simon Lebus, group chief executive of Cambridge Assessment, said: “There is more to this than converting a question paper into an e-paper.”

Questions had to be asked like whether the change would improve assessment and give a more authentic picture of what the student knew and understood - plus what effect it would have on the less digitally competent.

Marking and grading had been almost entirely switched over to technological platforms over the past decade - with a significant improvement in quality.

“Nevertheless, we believe we will see slow migration to e-assessment in high stakes exams,” he said.  “However, we have got to understand that the process will be evolutionary in that different subjects are likely to migrate at different times.”