Aussies rule at exam and curriculum watchdog

A SECOND Australian has been appointed to a senior position at the Government's exam watchdog.

Linda O'Sullivan is the new head of assessment at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. She joins a management team which will be led by new chief executive Ken Boston, former director general of education and training in New South Wales.

The Antipodeans take charge of the quango as it faces the biggest challenges in its five-year history.

Dissatisfaction with the exam system has reached an all-time high. Concerns have been raised about the number of exams and tests children are now forced to take and what use they are when a fifth of A-level candidates get an A grade.

The ability of exam boards to cope with the volume of entries has been under the spotlight. Closer monitoring of their work will be expected when the QCA gets new powers to intervene in September.

Former adult education teacher Ms O'Sullivan came to Britain 10 months ago to take charge of corporate planning at the Learning and Skills Council. Prior to that she was at the Australian National Training Agency.

She will be responsible for the national tests taken by 1.8 million seven, 11 and 14-year-olds every year. She will also oversee development of new tests, such as the key stage 3 technology exam which will be compulsory from 2004.

Ms O' Sullivan insists her lack of school experience will not hamper her. She said. "One of the key challenges will be how to use information technology to improve testing, such as electronic marking."

One of Ms O'Sullivan's key tasks will be to investigate whether national tests should be run by a separate body. Currently, the QCA runs the tests but also has responsibility for assessing their quality, a potential conflict of interest.

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