Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Ofqual and academic standards

Letter to the Sunday Telegraph - published Sunday 1st March 2009

How to end A-level grade inflation

Sir - We should not be surprised that Ofqual is unsure how to maintain examination standards [Sunday Telegraph, 15th February]. Ofqual, like QCA before it, is faced with an alliance of Government, Exam Boards, schools, parents and pupils all of whom want higher grades.

The solution to year-on-year grade inflation is therefore unpalatable, but essential, lest our examination system descend any further towards the point of meaninglessness. We must abandon the "standards" based approach and return to a system that awards grades on the basis of how a candidate performed in relation to his peers. This would provide a transparent system whereby everyone would then know that an A* indicated, say, a performance in the top 10% of candidates, an A grade the top 20% and so on. There would be no 'progress' for Government ministers to celebrate, but Universities, employers and, importantly, students would then know where they stand.

Free from pressures to achieve ever better grades, Ofqual, the Government, Exam Boards, schools, parents and pupils will be able to work together to raise academic standards.

Mark S Steed
Principal, Berkhamsted School
Berkhamsted, Herts

[Text in blue edited for publication]

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