Examiner overload threatens Diploma

20th November 2009 at 00:00
Sheer numbers needed for vocational qualification could impair assessment standards

Exam boards employed nearly one-and-a-half examiners for every candidate completing the main section of one of the Government's new Diplomas this year, it was revealed today.

The news, which is found in an Ofqual report, has prompted academics to warn that the sheer number of examiners could threaten the consistency of Diploma assessment across the country.

Just 894 candidates completed the core "principal learning qualifications" (PLQs) at the heart of the Diplomas this year, the report reveals. But exam boards recruited and trained about 1,300 examiners and moderators to assess the PLQs.

The discrepancy may be partly explained by the fact that many candidates were completing PLQ modules but not finishing the whole qualification this year.

But even if all 10,262 pupils participating in the Diploma were taken into account, there was still one examiner for every eight Diploma candidates in the country.

With more than 250 principal learning units available across the first five Diplomas alone, the sheer complexity of the new qualification also helps to explain the high number of examiners needed.

And that total does not take into account assessors needed for other elements of the Diploma.

Professor Alan Smithers, of Buckingham University, said: "These qualifications are highly fragmented. A very large number of examiners are needed compared to A-levels, for example, where an individual will mark 100 more scripts.

"This is partly because we are at an early stage with Diplomas, but the numbers used do raise questions about the consistency of the qualification across the country."

Ofqual said "fair and accurate" results had been delivered on time to the 212 candidates who completed a whole Diploma this year.

But the regulator added: "There remain some issues that will require further work to ensure delivery of much larger numbers of awards in future years."

In its report on the summer exam season, the regulator said it was satisfied with standards in GCSEs and A-levels generally, but noted two particular incidents.

Up to half the candidates in an Edexcel applied French GCSE on-screen listening and reading test had accidentally been given the 2008 version of the exam.

But Ofqual said it was satisfied that appropriate measures had been taken to "safeguard the integrity of candidates' results".

It reached the same verdict about a "localised security breach" that led to one AQA paper being replaced in some exam centres.

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