Exam boards to be graded
THERE is a vast disparity be-tween the service provided by Britain's best and worst-performing exam boards, according to a report into complaint-handling to be published on Monday.
The first league table of boards will identify which are letting pupils down, in an effort to ensure they improve before this summer's exams.
The report, to be published by the exam regulators, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, assesses the performance of the three English boards - OCR, Edexcel, and the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance - as well as Northern Ireland's CCEA and Wales's WJEC.
While the figures show that some boards must speed up their service, the report also identifies areas of good practice.
Officials at the AQA, formed by a merger between the Northern and Associated exam boards, believe they successfully dealt with priority queries by introducing new procedures last summer.
It saved time by requiring examiners to re-mark priority papers in its headquarters while other boards wasted vital days mailing papers to examiners around the country.
Northern Ireland's CCEA is unique in that it operates an accelerated service which re-marks papers within two weeks for an extra fee.
But the data also highligh the poor service received by many sixth-formers whose university places are jeopardised because of poor marking.
A "fast-track" re-marking service for candidates who face losing their university place was introduced in 1998 to ensure a response within 30 days of a complaint. But the report reveals the extent to which some exam boards failed to deliver the supposedly fast-track results on time.
Edexcel admitted that it met the deadline for priority A-level candidates in just 64 per cent of cases.
However, this is much better than its success at handling mainstream GCSE results - just 15 per cent of those appeals were dealt with within the 40-day deadline.
An Edexcel spokeswoman said the increasing volume of enquiries had been responsible for last year's delays. "We regret that we did not meet the key targets set by QCA in 1999. We intend to speed up the turn-around of enquiries this year," she said.
OCR, the Oxford and Cambridge board, also admits problems in dealing with priority papers.
Ron McLone, OCR director of policy, said: "No students must lose their place at university; we clearly have got to do a lot better. We will be organising the priority re-mark system differently this year because we felt we were learning last year and can now improve our operation."