Private schools voice lack of confidence in exams system


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The Independent Online

Britain’s leading independent schools tonight declared their lack of confidence in the GCSE and A-level exams system.

Their move came in the wake of revelations that exams had been made easier for pupils and examiners had passed on tips to teachers about questions likely to crop up in next year’s papers.

Peter Hamilton, chairman of the academic policy committee of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, said: “Continuing revelations about the examination boards corrode our confidence in the system.”

The HMC represents 250 of the country’s most elite traditionally boys’ only schools – such as Eton and Harrow.

“Pupils across all sectors strive diligently to achieve their personal best in these examinations and it is profoundly dispiriting for them to learn of these irregularities,” Mr Hamilton added.

“I thoroughly endorse the call by the Government for a fundamental review.  This is further evidence that the examination system needs a radical overhaul.”

Meanwhile, the influential Commons  education select committee is summoning leaders of the exam boards to a meeting on Thursday to investigate the allegations.

The committee, under the chairmanship of Conservative MP Graham Stuart, is already investigating the examination system.

At a meeting with educational journalists last night, Mr Stuart praised the Daily Telegraph – which mounted an undercover operation with 13 exam board seminars to reveal details of how exam board officials had passed on information to teachers about questions likely to crop up in next year’s exams.

A third exam board official, Steph Warren, has been suspended by her exam board – Edexcel.

She told an undercover reporter that “you don’t have to teach a lot” to cover one of its courses.

Ms Warren, who sets geography exams, said she did not know how Edexcel “got it through” the official regulation system that is expected to ensure high standards in GCSEs and A-levels.

 A spokesman for Edexcel said Ms Warren had regretted what she said.

“There is strong evidence that (the examiner) has not taken her responsibilities to uphold standards seriously,” he added.

“We will investigate both this issue and the allegations regarding disclosure of future exam content and, during this, suspend her from her duties as an examiner.  We will not pre-judge the outcome of any investigation.”