Chalk Talk: Drop the exam papers and put your hands up - this is a raid!


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The Independent Online

The job of chief exams regulator, it seems, is becoming more exciting by the minute.

Glenys Stacey, chief executive of Ofqual – who seems to be much in demand at every conference one goes to nowadays (perhaps unsurprisingly), revealed last week how she had organised a dawn raid on one exam provider's premises.

No names, no pack drill yet – the case is still being built up – but apparently it was not one of the big three in England but someone providing a vocational qualification.

However, as a modus operandi, it has much to commend itself. Imagine there's an error in an exam paper next year and the next thing you know is Knacker of the Yard is arriving at the front door at 6am to haul a recalcitrant chief examiner away for questioning.

Should cure that problem.

Ms Stacey was appearing at the annual conference of Cambridge Assessment, the umbrella organisation that includes the OCR (Oxford and Cambridge and Royal Society of Art) exam board under its wing.

There, too, some hitherto unpublished research from the Centre of Educational Research and policy on which risks faced by exam boards were posing the biggest threat.

Not surprisingly, there was general agreement that politicians in a hurry not giving time for new exams to be trialled and bed in is one of the biggest threats.

(On that subject, Education Secretary Michael Gove has responded to a plea from Graham Stuart, the Conservative chairman of the Commons select committee on education, to stop taking the urgency pills by threatening to take as many of them as possible.)

Then there was the fact that, in the past, an error in an exam paper was quietly brought to the board's attention by a centre where pupils had sat it. Now the candidates will have a lively discussion about it on Facebook the moment after the exam has finished.