Focus on tests led to exam impropriety

16th December 2011 at 00:00

So the Telegraph has apparently lifted the lid on what it perceives as the clandestine examination conferences. It has portrayed these meetings as if they were a gathering of freemasons, where those who attended garnered some "secret" information.

Yet any teacher who has read the information freely available on the open website would know there was a cycle to the WJEC history questions. It states it clearly on page 9 of the GCSE History Teachers' Guide to the Examined Units. There is even a justification included: they want to allow teachers to focus on interpretation and source evaluation. So why the hysteria?

What this story may have done is open the floodgates to more fundamental questions about the nature and purpose of education. Exam results have been improving and a big reason for this has been a focus on teaching to the exam. The education secretary appears to believe that it is wrong for teachers to focus on what students will be examined on. Yet isn't this view slightly absurd? Yes, there is a real danger that teachers may simply teach to the test, but we should also not lose sight of the fact that educators are there to ensure that students achieve.

Andrew Whitworth, Head of history, Southampton.

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