Examiners break advertising rules

27th April 2007 at 01:00
Regulations designed to stop self-promotion have not been enforced, but now the AQA acts

GUIDELINES THAT ban examiners from advertising books and classes on the basis of their inside knowledge are being ignored, The TES has discovered.

It is not uncommon for examiners to set an exam, mark it and sell textbooks and classes teaching students how to pass it - but they are forbidden to advertise this fact.

The TES has found that the conflict of interest rules, designed to preserve the integrity of the exam system and prevent corruption, are not being enforced.

The AQA exam board is in talks with Amazon after finding books by two of its examiners were promoted on the site, in breach of the code. Notices for textbooks by Malcolm Surridge, an A-level business studies chief examiner, and Ian Marcouse, a former chief examiner, are under discussion. AQA said it took such breaches seriously.

Ian Marcouse, chair of strategy for business education at Edexcel, said he had not been aware the advertisement broke guidelines. He said it was not realistic to expect examiners to control how their names were used.

On the back cover of Business Studies, an A2 revision guide edited by Mr Marcouse, it reads: "Ian Marcouse was chief examiner of AQA business studies A-level for over 10 years, and wrote the current syllabus."

The guidelines allow examiners to mention their subject speciality, but not their exam board and paper. The idea is to prevent accusations that markers are profiting from inside knowledge or implying their books are a "must read".

Duncan Williamson, a business studies tutor, called the situation "completely inappropriate" and demanded tighter regulation of markers'

business interests.

"This is an abuse of power by chief examiners that appears to be condoned by the boards," he said. "It is unethical and it would not happen in any other industry."

Susan Elkin, a former teacher and chair of the Society of Author's education writers group, said the fact that examiners did such work was in itself a "huge conflict of interests". "These people are setting the syllabus and overseeing the marking, then writing the textbooks. How can it possibly be a disinterested enterprise?"They are frightened of getting poor results and so apparently foolproof solutions are attractive."

The Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents all three boards, drafted the guidelines.

The TES revealed last week that schools were paying hundreds of pounds for advice sessions in which senior examiners explained how to beat the GCSE system.

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