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Apologise for this flawed exam

The "assurances" referred to in the letter from the director general of the AQA exam board (TES, April 15) about outcomes in vocational GCSEs in information and communications technology will meet with a very sour reception in schools, and do little to stem the drain of support from this flawed examination.

The sense of outrage felt by many schools will not be lessened, and it is very unfortunate that AQA attempts to avoid any blame in this respect by saying that "its results were in line with other boards". That is the point - the examination itself and its procedures are flawed.

Of the full 41,000 pupils entered, there were some 15,000 "highly able" pupils. We might have expected (in line with all other GCSE exams) well over 13,000 of these to obtain A* to C grades, if the examination were in any way "similar in outcome to other GCSEs". But fewer than 8,000 of these very bright pupils obtained this result: a shortfall of more than 5,000 pupils - whose experience gives the lie to ministerial assurances (given in March 2004) that "no student would be disadvantaged".

Isn't it time that instead of claiming that all is well, the exam boards (and particularly AQA) apologise for the needless distress their actions have caused many students and their schools?

Professor David Jesson

Centre for Performance Evaluation University of York

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