Leading Article: We should heed Ken Boston

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The Independent Online

The Government should heed the warning by Ken Boston that its new exams regulatory body, Ofqual, is in danger of having its independence compromised if it allows civil service "observers" to sit in on meetings. As he reveals, civil servants are prone to say things like "ministers would accept this" or "if I were to put this to ministers, I'd be laughed out of court". Such comments can influence so-called independent bodies in the kind of evidence they put forward. It is, however, a distressing trait of this Government that it tries to influence an "independent" review or body by, for example, defining the areas it can comment on. For example, it has told the primary curriculum review, whose report is due out today, that it cannot comment on the future of national curriculum tests.

The Government should welcome truly independent advice and have the courage of its convictions to ignoreit, if it disagrees with it. Relations between Dr Boston and the Government are at such a low that it is likely to disregard him. However, for four years , until last summer's SATs fiasco, he had an impressive record for modernising the examination system for which he was responsible.