Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

'Jury Out' on Future of Exam Regulation, Says Minister: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

'Jury Out' on Future of Exam Regulation, Says Minister: News

Article excerpt

Grading fiasco could spell the end for agreement across UK nations.

The fallout from this summer's GCSE grading crisis could trigger a fundamental overhaul of the way exams are regulated across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a politician at the centre of the controversy has said.

Wales' education minister Leighton Andrews, who has strongly criticised England's regulator Ofqual over the fiasco, said that the cooperation between the three countries - which are regulated separately but agree common standards across qualifications and exams - may be under threat.

Giving evidence to a cross-party committee of Welsh Assembly members about his decision to order the WJEC exam board to regrade English language GCSE papers in Wales, Mr Andrews said the system was being threatened by the "ideological approach" being pursued by Ofqual and the Westminster government. He said the "jury was out" on the future of how exam standards would be monitored and maintained.

"My officials have diligently sought to continue to operate on the basis of a three-country regulatory system," he said. "It is the case that since June 2010, and particularly in the past year, this has become more difficult."

The robust display from Mr Andrews was the latest instalment in his dispute with Ofqual over this summer's grading problems. As the regulator for Wales, Mr Andrews ordered a regrade of papers set by the WJEC board, leading to almost 2,400 pupils out of a cohort of 34,000 receiving higher grades. Appeals for a regrade in England were turned down by Ofqual, prompting legal action by an alliance of teachers, schools, pupils and unions, which is due to be heard in the High Court next month.

Mr Andrews accused Ofqual of having a "poor understanding" of devolution, citing a letter to Welsh government officials in July in which it claimed to have regulatory powers wherever qualifications were taken, including Wales. Ofqual withdrew the letter after the Welsh government contacted its lawyers.

In her evidence to the same committee last month, Ofqual's chief regulator Glenys Stacey claimed the Welsh government had jeopardised the system by ordering a regrade. "It puts three-country regulation into a very difficult position because we have one regulator determining after the event to set a different standard," she said. …

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