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Teacher feedback is a 'waste of time'

BELEAGUERED exam board Edexcel plans to axe formal feedback sessions with teachers because they have "outlasted their usefulness", writes Julie Henry.

The move comes less than a month after Downing Street described blunders in January exam papers as "shoddy". Two diagrams in an AS maths paper were incorrect and economics A-level papers contained errors.

Schools were particularly unhappy about how Edexcel dealt with complaints about late results from last summer's exams, claiming letters and phone calls to the board went unacknowledged.

A troubleshooter from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority was sent in to tackle management problems and Edexcel was given four weeks to come up with a rescue plan. Details are expected next week.

Edexcel and the other awarding bodies meet three times a year with panels of about 20 teachers. These joint standing committees collect and collate feedback from schools about the quality of exam papers and syllabuses, timetable issues and administrative problems. A report is then presented to the exam board which it responds to.

But Edexcel wants to do away with the process. In a letter to the National Union of Teachers, it said the comments system gave no "added value".

The exam board said it had close contact with teachers through training days and the Internet and that schools wrote directly to the board about exams. Comments made through the committee duplicated opinions already received and the process was an expensive waste of staff time.

A spokeswoman for Edexcel said the exam board met more than 40,000 teachers and lecturers annually - some meetings were specifically tailored to be consultative and to address particular issues. "We will continue to work with the London Standing Joint Committee but are seeking to make small changes that will avoid duplication of work."

But John Bangs, NUT head of education, said: "Edexcel's attitude is unbelievable and is in stark contrast to the other boards who value the work of the committees. This is another example of Edexcel foot in mouth."

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