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Exam board textbook endorsement can continue, Ofqual rules

Exam boards will be allowed to continue endorsing textbooks and other resources, the qualifications regulator announced this morning.

Ofqual had been considering an outright ban on the idea of “official” textbooks linked to particular qualifications.

Critics have argued that the lucrative practice is part of an exam board "race to the bottom" that can narrow the curriculum and give some students an unfair advantage.

But the regulator has decided that new controls designed to bring greater transparency and prevent conflicts of interests will be sufficient.

Glenys Stacey, Ofqual chief regulator, said it “would not be in the interest of students' to prevent endorsement by exam boards".

“Endorsed resources offer often vital support to teachers and students throughout the course and when preparing for exams,” she said.

“But it is important that endorsement arrangements do not undermine standards or give some students advantages over others. We have considered this very carefully and decided that new controls can mitigate against these risks, and a ban is not required.

“Additionally we considered the issues which arise when examiners also write textbooks and other resources. There is a risk that these examiners could make the exam too predictable by writing similar questions in the textbook, or even reveal an exam question in another resource.

“We are asking exam boards to put in place much stronger safeguards where these risks arise to ensure that exams do not become predictable, and confidential information is not revealed.”

A new rule states that exam boards must ensure endorsements do not undermine qualification standards or disadvantage pupils.

Ofqual has also suggested that the boards use transparent criteria for their decision to endorse a resource and “do not market the resource in a way which implies it contains privileged information, or that it is necessary for successful completion of the course”.

The watchdog is warning it will take further action if exam boards fail to comply.

Related stories:

Mathematicians divide with exam boards on textbooks - September 2009 

Books for the exam factory - June, 2006 




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