Education Quandary: My teacher brother is switching to an easier exam board in the hope he gets better results. Why don't all students sit the same exam?

Hilary's advice

It's a good question. Those of us who have grown up with the system never think to query it. My childhood was studded with days out in Nottingham, when my father had to attend meetings of the East Midlands Examining Board, and as a result I always took it as a fact of life that regional boards generated their own exams.

But in the 1990s the existing exam boards were consolidated into just three for England, plus separate ones for Wales and Northern Ireland, and apparently the thinking since then has been that this level of diversity is healthy. It allows for a variety of courses and for diversity in the resources and teacher training events available to schools. It also allows teachers to switch from one board to another if they feel they are not getting a good service or a reliable standard of marking.

One national board would inevitably turn into the Government's exam board and not many people want to see yet more politicisation of education and ministers closely involved in setting exam grades.

As you rightly point out, however, these days many teachers choose their exam boards with an eye to who will give them the best league table results, and inevitably boards will want to cater to this need. But who can blame teachers for doing this when education has become so much a matter of passing tests and hitting targets?

Readers' advice

The Liberal Democrats called for a single examining body 17 years ago. Since then the hunt for the easiest board has become a national pastime among teachers and, despite their denials, exam boards are responding. A single national awarding body is the only way to stop this dumbing down and to set common standards for all.

Martin Westwood, Oxfordshire

Because of the huge pressure that schools are under to demonstrate improving results, almost however they are generated, some teachers will seek out boards according to which offers the "easier" exams. In a competitive market, the boards are under pressure to respond to this demand to improve results: some even market themselves to teachers on the basis that their courses will help improve grades.

For me, the answer is not a single board, but to try to give outsiders who might question what improvements in results really mean (such as employers and universities) more say in exams policy.

Warwick Mansell, author of Education By Numbers: The Tyranny Of Testing (Politico's)

Your brother is only doing the sensible thing. School today is only about grades on paper, not real learning and education, so it is right that teachers should be working all the angles to get their pupils the best results. Exam boards only matter if you believe children learn anything useful at schools. Good results are likely to boost pupils' confidence and make them more ready to learn as they go through life.

Donna Morton, London NW7

Next Week's Quandary

Last week, two schools banned parents from swearing at their children in the playground, and from drinking from open cans of lager at the school gates. What other negative and unacceptable parental behaviours would people like to see banned? As a primary head, I can think of many!

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet. com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are online at www.hilarywilce.com. They can be searched by topic.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Hillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
Life and Style
Kissing
life
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Senior Textiles / Fashion Technician

£22000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To contribute to the day-to-da...

Recruitment Genius: Health and Social Care NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It is also essential that you p...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

Recruitment Genius: Plumber

£30000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An independent boys' school sit...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test