Ofqual will have a full set of teeth

27th February 2009 at 00:00

In last week's edition, you reported the comments of two of the awarding bodies about the Ofqual legislation, and called in your editorial for the new legislation to give Ofqual "a real set of teeth". This is exactly what the Bill will do. There are three issues in particular which need correction.

First, the Bill will give Ofqual the powers it needs to regulate effectively. In particular, it will be able to require awarding bodies to take a consistent approach to setting standards, and if necessary it will be able to step in and direct an awarding body, and enforce that direction in the courts.

Second, Ofqual will be truly independent of ministers. That is fundamental to its credibility and effectiveness. It will report to Parliament, not to ministers. And, contrary to what you say, the chair - the chief regulator of qualifications and examinations - will be a Crown appointment (as is the head of Ofsted), and, once established, the Ofqual board will appoint the chief executive.

Finally, ministers' ability to determine the specification of qualifications will be restricted to minimum requirements about the content of qualifications. So ministers will be able to say, for example, that someone must show knowledge of Shakespeare to secure a GCSE English - that is a matter of policy. But Ofqual will have the final say on regulatory matters, which are central to maintenance of standards, such as how qualifications are assessed and graded.

We have worked with Ofqual in its interim form as we have prepared the detail of the bill, and they have not been shy to tell us when they have thought we have got things wrong.

So when the chair, Kathleen Tattersall, wrote to me to express confidence in the legislation, I took great reassurance from that. You and your readers should, too.

Jim Knight, Schools Minister.

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