Exam body could be ditched over chaos

7th September 2001 at 01:00
Unions seek alternatives after Edexcel's results 'meltdown'. Steve Hook reports

COLLEGES may set up their own examining body to prevent a repeat of this year's "meltdown" in issuing results. The Association for College Management is to formally discuss "alternatives" this month after colleges around the country complained of late and inaccurate results.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that if a lot of colleges got together there is no reason why they couldn't do this themselves," said Peter Pendle, ACM general secretary. "As customers, colleges are not being given a good service. In a situation like this you have to look at the options available and I would have thought that this is one of them."

The idea will be discussed by the ACM's education committee on August 28 and 29. Other options, said Mr Pendle, could include asking ministers to intervene to prevent similar problems next year. The Association of Colleges says the possibility of the sector forming its own examining body cannot be ruled out.

"It's not completely off the wall as an idea," said a spokeswoman for the AOC. "We have to wait and see what Edexcel's response to the problems is but, if we are not happy with it, we have to look at the alternatives."

Dorothy Jones, principal of Southwark and a member of the AOC's national policy forum, said: "I am going to raise this with the AOC in mid-September.

"I have spoken to other principals around the country and there seem to be a lot of concerns. We spent a lot of money with Edexcel on behalf of our students and we are entitled to expect a timely service.

"We have had problems with AS-levels and I have asked for a report on that and how the position is with other exams as well."

In a letter to the AOC, Edexcel's chief executive Tina Townsend said:

"There is still a question mark over the preparedness of colleges for the changes. That has to be put right next year."

An Edexcel spokeswoman said: "With a number of centres the problem has been that we have been waiting for them to send us their module marks. But these are isolated incidents, not a national problem." She stressed all boards have been coping with a vastly increased workload.

Derwentside College in Durham said all its Advanced Vocational Certificate of Education results were late, and some had still not been received this week. "We have not received value for money," said David Houpt, the principal, "and I am particularly concerned that Edexcel seems to be blaming us."

South East Essex College says its General National Vocational Qualifications and AVCE results have been plagued by administrative and data-processing problems at Edexcel. It received a panic telephone call from the body, asking it to destroy 500 results slips which were sent out because they were inaccurate.

More than 200 of these students still await their revised slips.

"We will be asking Edexcel for things to be resolved before we pay them," said David Howe, director of quality assurance at the college.

The college has also found discrepancies in the way the board has carried out the unified marking scheme, which translates students' scores into marks out of 100. Similar problems have been detected by the London colleges of Lambeth and Southwark. Lambeth also found a number of students had sat exams only to be recorded as "absent."

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