Westminster meddlers 'destroying confidence in British education'

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Meddling FROM politicians is destroying public confidence in the UK exams system, a senior exams official warned yesterday.

Simon Lebus, chief executive of Cambridge Assessment, said ministerial interference had inflicted widespread damage on the international standing of Britain's education system.

Cambridge Assessment, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary is the parent body for Oxford and Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR) – one of the big three exam bodies – and the university of Cambridge International Examinations. It is pioneering the introduction of the Pre-U, built along the lines of the traditional A-level without coursework.

Speaking to an international conference of exam experts in Cambridge, Mr Lebus said that, as a result of politicians becoming involved in the design of qualifications, "we have seen the Government ordering the use of calculators in and out of the exams system seven times in the last decade, the introduction and removal of coursework and political engagement at the level of the Secretary of State in the highly technical question of how to set the grade boundary for the new A* at A-level being introduced this month".

Mr Lebus added: "This interference is counterproductive. It harms public confidence and means that people do not believe politicians' annual protestations that things are getting better since the claim is impossible to verify with the education and qualification system in a ferment of perpetual change."

The growing political interference had led to increased demand for international qualifications such as theInternational Baccalaureate, the IGCSE – built along the lines of the old O-level and now being taken by scores of independent schools – and the Pre-U.

nAlmost one in four pupils at rural schools leaves without a single GCSE pass above a D grade while one in 20 leaves without a single GCSE, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers reported yesterday.