Anna Davis, Education Correspondent
4 Oct 2011
Pupils are in danger of getting the wrong grades and missing out on places at university because examination boards are not up to the job, a London headteacher said today.
Kenneth Durham, head of University College School in Hampstead and chairman of the private school lobby group, said A-level and GCSE boards were in urgent need of an overhaul.
As the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference began today, Mr Durham said that mistakes made in marking exam papers were “extensive and worrying”.
It comes after around 100,000 students across the state and independent sectors were affected by mistakes in 12 different exam papers this summer.
Mr Durham said: “There is a big issue over assessment in this country and the quality and reliability of our exam boards. We had quite a few mistakes this year. Every head I speak to could point to aspects of results they weren’t convinced were accurate or consistent.”
The Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents exam boards, said there was an “unusual cluster” of mistakes this year. Errors ranged from wrong answers in a multiple choice paper, to impossible questions and printing mistakes.
Around a quarter of A-level exam results were queried at Mr Durham’s school, while at St Paul’s Girls’ School in Hammersmith 200 papers were re-marked. Mr Durham said: “Exam boards are really struggling to provide a service. We have hugely increased the weight of assessment in this country but I am not sure they [exam boards] are coping with it. My view is that the problem is extensive and worrying.” Mr Durham will make the issue a priority during his year as chairman of the HMC, which represents the heads of more than 250 independent schools.
He also called for new forums to be set up where staff at schools and universities can talk to each other.
Mr Durham added: “There is far too little attention being given to the transition from school to university. I am arguing for a far closer relationship between school sixth forms and the university sector.”