Push for profit harms quality

9th September 2005 at 01:00
Commercial considerations are evidently starting to weigh heavily on Edexcel, England's privately-owned exam board ("Edexcel staff admit to grading GCSE papers after just 20 minutes' training", TES, August 26).

Online assessment, as pioneered in this country by Edexcel, enables the board to use cheaper, unqualified staff and speed up marking, thereby winning market advantage.

These practices increase the likelihood that students' work will be mis-marked. They help reduce the influence of teachers on the process of setting and assessing exam scripts, increasing the trend to make teachers deliverers of curriculum content they have not devised.

In our over-testing culture there's money to be made from students turning 7, 11, 14, 16, 17 and 18. Edexcel's practices teach a powerful lesson about the malign effect private profit and its values bring to a public service.

Patrick Yarker Dols Hole Cottage, Hall Road Beetley, Dereham, Norfolk

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