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Boards move in different directions

Examinations system still hampered by lack of co-ordination, say officers. Warwick Mansell reports

ENGLAND's examinations system is still blighted by the needless bureaucratic demands being made of schools by the boards, a body representing school and college examinations officers said this week.

The Examinations Officers' Association says England's three boards are still not co-ordinating their systems for submitting exam entries.

Last December, Mike Tomlinson's report into the A-level regrading controversy said differences in administrative procedures "contributed significantly" to schools' burdens.

Each board had a different system for schools entering students for exams.

Results conventions were different, too: one board gave results in alphabetical order, another in candidate number order.

An examinations taskforce was set up to look at changes following last year's furore. The three boards are also looking at ways of making their entry systems more user-friendly.

But Andrew Harland, a spokesman for the association, which was set up in 2000 and has more than 500 members, said that schools had yet to see any changes for this year's exams. A new software package to help them administer their entries, which examinations officers had expected in September, had been put back a year by the Joint Council for General Qualifications.

Mr Harland said: "Boards still seem to be acting independently, with little or no move toward any form of continuity or standardisation."

His criticisms come after a survey by the association offered the first unofficial customer service rankings of the boards. Nearly half of those responding rated their relationship with Edexcel, the second largest board, as poor or very poor.

Schools and colleges were asked to rate their relationship with the boards on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing very poor and 5, very good.

The Welsh board, WJEC, came top, averaging 4, or good. AQA and OCR averaged 3.6 and 3.5 respectively, or mid-way between average and good. Edexcel scored 2.7, between average and poor. Of the 160 schools and colleges using Edexcel who responded, 21 rated it very poor and 55, poor. Thirty-three rated it good or very good.

The survey was carried out last autumn, before Mr Tomlinson published his recommendations , and included responses from 185 schools or colleges out of the 6,000 in England and Wales.

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