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On your marks, get set - mark!

Politicians often look to the Olympics when searching for an analogy to explain better pupil performance in exams. They like to defend improved A-level pass-rates by pointing out that no one complains about falling standards when athletes break records to win gold medals.

This comparison may fall out of favour when the Olympics come to London in 2012 though - the exam board Edexcel intends to be involved in running the event.

It has set up an "Olympic team" to prepare for the games, led by Rick Firth, its business development and marketing director.

Jerry Jarvis, Edexcel's managing director, has written to staff telling them the exam board is "already off the starting blocks", and "there are opportunities for us to help the organisers identify the skills needed for event volunteers.

"We have much to offer in the hospitality area and we have increasingly raised our profile in areas of 'security' likely to be a key feature of games management."

Edexcel does provide a range of courses which could be relevant to volunteers at the games, including vocational diplomas in hospitality, sport and exercise sciences. But the company security skills are more of a mystery.

Markers have reported how confidential pupils' exam scripts have been left lying in gardens, on their doorsteps or delivered to the wrong teachers.

Teachers' unions have described the company as "accident-prone" because of its alleged blunders over the past three years, which include setting pupils an insoluble maths question. John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said he hoped Edexcel would not introduce a speed-marking category to the Olympics. Edexcel markers have complained of being made to mark English AS papers at a rate of one every six minutes.

So will the gold standard of, erm, gold medals ever be the same? An Edexcel spokesman said it was too early to comment on the company's preparations for the 2012 Olympics but that further announcements would be made in due course.

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