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Ofqual calls on teachers to disclose 'unfair' tactics used to boost results

Ofqual wants teachers to anonymously disclose the tactics used to give students an "unfair advantage" in boosting their exam results.

The exam watchdog will launch an online survey next week to hear teachers’ views on practices used by schools to "maximise" results, such as asking students to memorise marking schemes, entering students early for exams or focusing on areas of the curriculum that are most likely to be tested.

Ofqual said that while such approaches may not break any rules, they may “undermine qualification standards”. The move comes as the watchdog is overhauling GCSEs and A-levels in England.

The announcement was made by chief regulator Glenys Stacey today at a Westminster Education Forum event in London looking at exam reform and tackling malpractice.

Ms Stacey said her organisation was undertaking the exercise in order to develop proper evidence of methods employed by schools so the new qualifications will be able to “withstand” such strategies.

“Qualifications come under a range of pressures and we want to ensure that the new qualifications, developed as part of the reform programme, can withstand these pressures while providing a level playing field for all students,” she said.

“We hear increasingly from a range of sources across the school system that certain approaches are used that create unfair advantages for some students.”

The survey, which will run from Monday 9 June to Friday 18 July, will be entirely confidential and anonymous, giving teachers a “unique opportunity” to be open and honest with Ofqual.

“We see this work as important in moving from anecdote to a firmer evidence base, to allow us and the wider education community to tackle these difficult issues and better manage pressure points in the system so that qualification standards are protected,” Ms Stacey added.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), criticised the move, stating that enabling students to pass exams was one of the “main aims” of the education system.

“Not doing everything [a school] could to prepare students effectively would be a dereliction of duty,” Mr Lightman said. “While we take very seriously our responsibility to work closely with Ofqual to maintain standards of professional practice, ASCL has serious concerns about the idea of treating anonymous and anecdotal feedback as ‘evidence’.

“Hearsay and rumour have no place in evidence-informed policy. Explicit procedures to report malpractice are already in place and should be used where there is cause for concern.” 

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