Government makes proposals to strengthen teacher-examiner safeguards

The government has opened consultation on proposals to strengthen regulation of the use of teachers as examiners

Ofqual has set out how it intends to strengthen its regulation of awarding organisations’ involvement of teachers in the development of confidential assessment materials.

The consultation reflects detailed analysis of existing processes and extensive discussions with awarding organsiations, examiners, teachers, students and parents. The new regime, if confirmed, will extend to all regulated qualifications.

The proposals include:

  • explicitly setting out in our rules steps awarding organisations must take to help protect the integrity of the assessments to which teachers have contributed; and
  • publishing further statutory guidance to help awarding organisations understand the factors and approaches they should consider when deciding how to comply with the rules.

Consistent with these proposals, teachers will continue to be able to write assessments and have access to confidential materials. However, awarding organisations must maintain up to date records of all conflicts of interest relating to teachers who have seen confidential assessment materials. And they must review their safeguards such that they are appropriate and proportionate to:

  • effectively mitigate the risks of using teachers in the development of assessment materials, for example by making sure no teacher knows whether or when any assessments they have developed will be used;
  • support teachers to do the right thing, through appropriate training and contractual obligations;
  • detect malpractice, for example by sampling the work of teachers who have written exam papers to look for any unusual patterns of response.

We are also stressing that the way in which awarding organisations have regard to our guidance will be taken into account when deciding on the nature and scale of any regulatory action should a breach of confidentiality occur.

Timing

The exam boards who deliver GCSEs, AS and A levels and other qualifications used as equivalents, such as the Pre-U have already written the exams for summer 2018. Safeguards for 2018 will, therefore, need to focus on deterring and detecting malpractice and on supporting teachers. These awarding organisations have published a joint statement setting out their intentions for this summer. Subject to the outcome of the consultation, and where necessary, we expect that all awarding organisations will have made significant progress in terms of the safeguards they employ by summer 2019, and have fully revised their approaches by 2020. This transition period is necessary to avoid introducing an unacceptable degree of risk to the delivery of safe qualifications.

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Commenting on Ofqual’s consultation and JCQ’s paper on teacher involvement in developing exam papers, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“Teachers who set exam questions play an important role in the exam system bringing classroom and subject expertise into the process of question setting. They do so with great integrity, and the events of last summer are extremely rare. The measures announced today are a sensible and proportionate approach to strengthening safeguards further while retaining the invaluable expertise and insight of teachers in the question-setting process.”

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