Boards allay discrimination fears

18th August 2000 at 01:00
FEARS that independent-school pupils, female students and those from ethnic minorities could be discriminated against prompted the launch of new marking systems for A-levels and GCSEs, writes Sarah Cassidy.

For the first time this year, school names have been removed from all GCSE and A-level scripts seen by examiners so that they know nothing about candidates' educational background when they mark them.

Meanwhile, a separate pilot scheme is to investigate whether candidates' names' should also be removed from exam scripts so that markers cannot be influenced by a candidate's gender or race.

As part of the pilot scheme, which is being run by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance exam board, 34,000 GCSE students taking GCSE Englishfoundation papers this year were instructed not to write their nmes on scripts as usual.

Instead their names were written on gummed flaps, so that examiners could not see them. The pilot will be evaluated to see how much time and money would need to be spent on a national scheme.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, said that there was no evidence that any candidate had been disadvantaged by markers' prejudices.

The removal of school names from scripts followed complaints from independent schools, who felt that their pupils were being discriminated against by examiners who wanted to improve the relative performance of state schools.

George Turnbull, spokesman for AQA, said: "None of our research into potential bias in examiners' marking has ever found any evidence that it exists but anonymous marking helps to put people's minds at rest."

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