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Marked exam papers open to scrutiny;News;News amp; Opinion

ALL A-level students will be able to see their marked papers next summer, under a scheme to make the exam system more transparent, Education Secretary David Blunkett announced this week.

But ministers are expected to reject plans to return all 13.5 million GCSE and A-level scripts, after a pilot project revealed that teachers, exam boards and students favoured a limited scheme.Scripts are due to be returned only to schools and colleges requesting particular papers.

Teaching unions and exam boards have been hostile to the wholesale return of scripts from the outset, arguing that the time and expense involved would outweigh any benefits. Teachers' leaders called for only papers which were subject to appeal to be returned.

Meanwhile, a new system of script anonymity will begin next summer after claims that examiners discriminated against independent-school pupils in favour of candidates from the state sector. Centre anonymity will start next summer and candidate anonymity will be piloted from the same time.

The Education Secretary also warned that students who appeal against their grades may, in future, see them go down as well as up. Government advisers are to consult on this change in the current guidelines.

The national return of scripts is an extension of a pilot project which sent back more than 275,000 papers to schools this August. The initiative will also return GCSE maths, English and Welsh papers next year, while all other GCSE papers will be available by 2001.

Mr Blunkett described the move as an important step towards the freedom of information in education which will help teachers to improve their teaching.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "A general right to have access to exam scripts on request could create a great deal of bureaucracy and expense."

Ministers are due to consider the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority report on this summer's pilot before making a final decision on which papers will be returned.

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