Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Exam Board Animosity Reaches Boiling Point: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Exam Board Animosity Reaches Boiling Point: News

Article excerpt

'Frightened' AQA ducks out of moderator meetings at schools.

An exam board at the centre of the GCSE grading controversy has axed meetings seen as crucial to avoiding a repeat of this summer's problems, because it wants its employees to avoid "very tricky discussions" with angry teachers.

AQA's cancellation of what would have been compulsory sessions for every school using its GCSE English course comes despite Ofqual's push for better guidance for teachers on the troubled qualification.

Insiders at the board say the decision has made their "blood boil" and claim that a "frightened" AQA, which has the majority of the GCSE English market, is "shooting itself in the foot".

The news came as an alliance of about 100 organisations including teaching unions, local authorities, academy chains and about 40 schools began a landmark legal action against Ofqual and the Edexcel and AQA exam boards, challenging pupils' unexpectedly low grades.

Ofqual's inquiry into the GCSE English grading controversy reported that AQA had found "evidence of significant teacher over-marking" of controlled assessment units.

The watchdog's report last month said exam boards would review the advice and guidance they gave to schools about the standards required in GCSE English. Ofqual also noted that schools and the boards "could have shared a better understanding" of the qualification's grade boundaries.

But in a letter written five days after Ofqual's report was published, AQA announced it was cancelling meetings with schools that would have allowed it to improve that understanding.

Sent to moderators who check teacher marking of GCSE English controlled assessment, the letter begins by acknowledging the "controversy" caused by this year's results and the many "very difficult conversations" AQA has had with schools since.

"In the light of this we have decided that we will not hold compulsory face-to-face standardising meetings this autumn," the correspondence, seen by TES, continues.

As teachers would "understandably" have used the meetings to talk about this year's results, the board explains, "we don't think that it would be fair to you (the moderator) to have to deal with these sorts of potentially very tricky discussions".

The decision has angered some AQA moderators, who say the meetings, held every November to explain the qualification's grading, would have been one of the best ways to avoid another controversy in 2013. …

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