Board boss calls for number of exams to be reduced

13th June 2003 at 01:00
THE head of Britain's biggest qualifications board is backing a cut in the number of traditional exams taken by secondary students, writes Warwick Mansell Kathleen Tattersall, AQA's outgoing chief executive, wants the Government's inquiry into 14 to 19 education to lead to more teacher assessment in schools.

Ms Tattersall told a London conference on the future of assessment that what schools taught was driven by the content of exams. This trend had been growing since the advent of GCSE in 1988, and should be reversed.

She said: "We have testing at 11, 14, 16, 17 and 18. Students are going through the system hardly able to draw breath. The consequence is that the costs of examining have risen markedly.

"We need to redress the learning-assessment balance. We have to change the culture, from a dependency on an external end-of-course examination system to one in which assessment is varied, fit for purpose and takes place throughout the course. It also needs to be manageable and cost-effective."

Ms Tattersall said teacher assessment would have to be externally moderated if it was to be trusted. But she conceded that the public saw external exams as the only reliable indicator of pupils' progress. Teachers themselves, she suggested, needed to help change these perceptions.

Her calls, in a Royal Society of ArtsCampaign for Learning debate, will fuel the argument over assessment. The place of assessment, or coursework, within a possible English bac, is a key issue for the 14 to 19 taskforce which reports to ministers next year.

Meanwhile, Ken Boston, the exams watchdog, said this week his priority for this year's A-levels is to ensure that the "wheels don't fall off what is a virtually unsustainable process". This was an attack on the fact that millions of scripts will travel around the country by post under a system which also makes huge demands on examiners. Dr Boston wants to computerise the marking process, have more exams marked in dedicated centres and to reduce the number of exams.

He praised schools for putting teachers forward to mark papers after warning last autumn that last year's A-level regrading controversy could exacerbate the shortage of markers.

Although exam boards have not recruited all the examiners they need for this summer, more are in place than last year.

Dr Boston told a Learning and Skills Development Agency conference:

"Response from schools has been very encouraging."

* The Association of Colleges has called for traditional end-of-course exams to be replaced by assessment on completion of smaller units of work.

Letters, 29

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now