The Head of an independent school writes about education, university and careers
Monday, 8 October 2012
HMC report on exam marking
What follows is a press release from HMC referring to deep concerns over the quality of marking in public exams. The full report can be accessed by going to the HMC website and following their links.
'The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) warns that the Government’s proposed reform of public examinations will be “built on sand” unless deep-rooted problems within the examining system are addressed.
HMC, which represents 250 leading independent senior schools, has today published a detailed report uncovering endemic problems with marking, awarding, re-marks and appeals at GCSE and A level between 2007 and 2012.
HMC welcomes recent Government proposals to overhaul GCSEs and A levels, especially moves to increase rigour in subject studies, reduce the burden of assessment on students aged 15-18 and differentiate student achievement more clearly across the grade range.
But in its report, which has been sent to ministers, HMC says these changes to qualifications (the ‘superstructure’) are almost certain to be undermined by long-standing failings in how young people are examined (the ‘foundations’).
“Unless examining is reformed substantially, the introduction of revised qualifications will amount to new houses built on existing sand,” says the report.
The report details key examples of what goes wrong and why - though much remains unexplained due to a “culture of secrecy” in the exam boards and lack of focus in Ofqual - and the wider implications of each of these failings.
Specifically HMC detail seven failings of the current ‘examinations industry’ in England, grouped under three headings:
Poor quality marking: over the last five years, one school has had to challenge marking standards in 48 separate cases, covering 19 different subjects at GCSE and A level.
Inexplicable inconsistencies in the awarding of grades: one highly-selective school saw its English GCSE A* grades fluctuate between 11% and 65% over a decade.
Obstructions to redress: re-marks and appeals: the appeals process allows the boards to hide behind protocol rather than account for poor marking.
The authority for the findings derives from several sources: national data; collaborative work with schools and subject associations in the maintained sector; internal HMC surveys; and data from HMC schools, particularly from heads of departments.
In national terms the staff in HMC schools are exceptionally well qualified in subject knowledge and its schools are part of an independent sector that government research shows to be the most expert in the country at predicting student grades accurately.'