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Officers can now sit an exam on exams

Britain's qualifications system is so complicated that...you can now take an exam in the subject.

Yes, exams officers now have their very own course to take as they attempt to grapple with the labyrinthine intricacies of modern exam management.

Edexcel, the country's largest vocational qualifications provider, has launched a BTec in exams administration which is being marketed to people working in the 5,500 schools and colleges served by the board.

Mike Tomlinson, the man leading the Government's inquiry into the future of post-14 education, is among those who have criticised the 3,000-plus qualifications on offer in England.

Children in England are expected to sit 105 formal tests in their education careers, more than anywhere else in the world. Edexcel's move comes in response to the curriculum 2000 reforms, which introduced the AS and have created huge administrative headaches.

The distance-learning qualification involves 120 hours' study and is aimed initially at giving staff who are experienced in running schools' exams systems the chance to gain a formal qualification.

It was greeted with a mix of appreciation and mirth by exams officers'

representatives. Andrew Harland, of the Exams Officers' Association, said:

"We welcome the principle of having a professional qualification for exams officers.

"But it does make us laugh. Here we are talking about there being too many exams, and what do they do? They offer examinations officers the chance to go through an exam!"

Though Edexcel stressed that teachers working with any board could take the qualification, Mr Harland said that it would have been better if the qualification had been offered jointly by all the boards. Last week, Edexcel also launched a new on-line examination entry system, in which exams officers can check the accuracy of information they have provided on which students are entered for which exams.

Pearson, the publishing company which has taken over the Edexcel board, has also launched a piece of software designed to help exams officers. It can be viewed at www.pearsonpublishing.co.ukeducationexamsofficer

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