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Faith schools banned from redacting evolution questions

March 31st, 2014 by Rachel Kamm

Ofqual has issued a statement today on whether schools can redact examination papers:

“We have today written to all awarding organisations to set out our position on the redaction, or blacking out, of certain exam paper questions.  This position has been supported by the relevant exam boards.

“Having looked into the issue, we concluded that while the practice was very rare, it should not be allowed.  Denying learners access to all the questions on a paper prevents the candidate achieving their full potential and therefore disadvantages them. It also threatens the validity of the qualification.

“If awarding organisations suspect that schools or centres are redacting exam papers in the future we would expect them to act in the same way as they would for any other case of malpractice.”

TES reported today that:

” OCR, the board involved, had previously said the most reasonable approach was to “come to an agreement” with schools out of need to respect religious beliefs. But today, it also published a statement clarifying its position, saying: “We have now been able to consider our position and have concluded that as a matter of policy schools should not be permitted to tamper with question papers prior to a student sitting an exam.””

This follows recent media interest on the issue, including that Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School (an Orthodox Jewish institution in Hackney, east London) had blocked out questions about evolution on 52 test papers in two separate exams last year.

Ofqual’s statement applies equally to faith schools and non-faith schools; it prohibits redactions of  questions on any ground.

Rachel Kamm, 11KBW

Exam errors – Autumn update

October 10th, 2011 by Michael Lee

Two previous posts on this blog in July 2010 (see Jane Oldham’s here and mine here) have considered the potential legal consequences arising out of the exam paper errors which occurred in summer 2011. Department for Education statistics now show that almost 140,000 papers were affected.

The Department for Education’s regulatory response to this issue is now taking shape. The Department has announced that Ofqual will be given new powers to fine exam boards which make mistakes in exam papers. The direct imposition of financial penalties will add to Ofqual’s current powers, which include withdrawing an exam board’s recognition.

At present the proposals are in outline form. A maximum penalty of 10% of the organisation’s turnover (as opposed to its profit) certainly appears significant, but the circumstances in which this will be imposed remain to be seen. It will also be interesting to see how exam boards react to the prospect of being fined, as opposed to having their recognition, or right to offer certain qualifications, withdrawn.

The Department for Education hopes to provide Ofqual with the new power before the summer 2012 exams. Ofqual is to conduct a 12-week consultation in relation to the proposals, following which legislation is likely to be introduced. As such, more details of the new power are likely to emerge in due course.

Exam errors – update

July 14th, 2011 by Michael Lee

In a previous post Jane Oldham has questioned what remedies might be available to students (or their parents) if the exam papers which they are set contain errors. One of the issues raised in the post was the difficulty of establishing causation of loss.

Ofqual has recently provided an update of the progress of its inquiry into errors in the recent round of examinations which is of interest in this regard. It gives an insight into discussions which are taking place between the awarding bodies and other interested parties in an attempt to minimise the impact of any mistakes and to try and ensure that students are not disadvantaged. The effectiveness of such measures would clearly be relevant in determining what would have happened had there been no errors in the papers.

Further updates from Ofqual and the awarding bodies are expected in due course.