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Unions sceptical about examining body

Teachers' leaders have given a lukewarm response to plans for a new professional body for Britain's 65,000 examiners, saying that the organisation could be too close to Government.

Proposals for an Institute for Assessors are being drawn up by the qualifications regulator as part of a pound;100 million revamp of England's exams system.

It could be up and running by next spring under plans drawn up by the National Assessment Agency, a branch of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

The aim of the body would be to improve the quality of examining. It could form part of a drive, outlined in the Tomlinson report on secondary qualifications, for more teacher assessment in schools.

Teachers could be given the chance to go on training courses leading to qualifications in assessment.

However, in response to consultation on the plans, revealed by The TES in May, unions voiced a string of reservations.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said only one in five of its members who were consulted had reacted favourably. It was concerned that the new body would have insufficient input from examiners, and that it could be seen as another "top-down" organisation, imposed on the profession by a government agency.

There were also fears that the institute would over-emphasise the importance of raising the quality of marking public exams, when improvement was most needed in marking national curriculum tests and workplace-based assessments.

The Secondary Heads Association welcomed the proposals, but said the institute should develop a greater degree of independence from the assessment agency than was envisaged in the proposal.

The plan, released with no publicity last month, is vague about how the institute would operate. It makes no mention of suggestions that the institute would have the power to award teachers chartered examiner status in return for professional development. Detailed plans are expected next spring.

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