Big Brother's exam database

24th November 2006 at 00:00
Employers and academics can check individual records to combat qualifications fraud.

The days of embellishing your CV will soon be over, for both pupils and teachers. A new database could in the future allow potential employers or universities to call up an individual's exam results and other qualifications, including Sats taken at age seven.

The Learner Achievement Record system, set up this year by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to manage vocational qualifications, will be extended to include GCSEs and A-levels within 12 months, and could eventually display everything from a student's primary Sat scores to their degree results, researchers said.

Log in, and a user-friendly beige and red screen, which resembles an online banking screen, lists your completed qualifications, from college courses to on-the-job training in subjects like IT.

With a few clicks of the mouse, the information can be sent to a third party such as a potential employer or a school admissions officer which allows unprecedented access to individual academic records.

The database is likely to become a standard source of verification for employers and educators alike, combating academic fraud. The National Union of Teachers supports the setting up of the database, but described proposals to include primary test scores as "over the top". It said that teachers should not be responsible for its accuracy and maintenance.

The programme is being tested on thousands of learners at UK training centres, and will be rolled out across England, Wales and Northern Ireland by 2010.

The Learning and Skills Council said it fully supported the venture, which was "designed to fit within a more flexible and responsive qualification system," according to Janet Ryland, qualifications director. It will allow teachers to help pupils plan for the future by selecting appropriate courses, and has the ability to put an end to skills shortages, according to Alan Saunders, project manager.

He said: "In advance of big construction projects we would be able to see if there are enough workers in training. If not, the government could provide incentive schemes, or students could switch. It is a powerful tool to help us identify learner trends."

The software forms part of QCA plans to shake up vocational training by allowing "packets" of learning completed at work and on evening courses to count towards formal qualifications.

Under the new Qualifications and Credit Framework, small chunks of training will earn "credits", which will add up to form a certificate such as a GCSE or diploma. While the system is aimed at vocational training, it could be rolled out to GCSEs and A-levels in future, potentially revolutionising the way these qualifications are managed.

Concerns similar to those dogging the government's pound;12.4billion NHS database - which doctors are currently boycotting over fears of hacking - have inevitably resurfaced. Greg Watson, the chief executive of the OCR exam board, has warned schools and colleges not to get "embroiled" in the QCA initiative. He said: "Such large-scale developments are neither necessary, nor desirable."

INVASION OF PRIVACY?

A new children's database which will contain details of everything from a child's vaccinations to whether they are eating enough vegetables will "shatter" family privacy, according to academics.

The Children's Index, which was planned in response to the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie in 2000, who was tortured to death by her aunt, had been intended to act as an early warning system for abused children.

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