New chief regulator Sally Collier says ‘no system is perfect’
Today in her first speech since becoming Ofqual’s chief regulator eight weeks ago, Sally Collier said:
- Ofqual would “work doggedly” to improve exam marking
Ms Collier said final details of plans to overhaul the exam appeals process from this summer would be published next week. However, she added: “No system is perfect, and what this doesn’t mean is that we will not continue to work doggedly to improve the quality of first marking and we are open to ways in which we might do that, and we will be initiating further work in this area.”
- Lessons have been learned from the delays accrediting new GCSEs and A levels
Delays in getting reformed GCSEs and A levels ready for first teaching this September were acknowledged. “A lot has been learned by all parties involved in accrediting subjects for teaching last year and this year,” Ms Collier said today. “The process is definitely slicker.”
But she added that she would make “no apologies” for setting a high bar for giving new specifications Ofqual’s stamp of approval, adding: “If we get the assessment standard wrong in the beginning it will come back to haunt everybody at the end.”
- Grading AS levels could be tricky this year
Also speaking at the event, Cath Jadhav, Ofqual’s associate director of standards and comparability, said there would be a “big question” about the pupils taking their AS-level exams this summer. Ofqual’s grading system, known as “comparable outcomes”, assumes that at a national level, pupils will make the same amount of progress from their GCSE to their AS-level results every year.
But this year – the first year in which AS results will not count towards A-level grades in some subjects – things could be different. “We won’t know whether they’re less motivated taking qualifications that won’t count towards A levels, or perhaps they’re taking a mix [including some unreformed subjects in which AS results will count towards the A-level grade] and concentrating on those AS levels that count towards their A level.”
- There are question marks over the National Reference Test’s future
A trial of the National Reference Test has taken place this spring and Ofqual’s board will decide next month whether or not it should be rolled out nationally, Ms Collier said.
- More will be done to prevent exam errors
“We can do more, the whole system needs to do more to stop simple errors in the delivery of exams,” Ms Collier said. “An error of opening the wrong pack or giving out the history exam instead of the geography exam can have a fairly profound impact on the system and I think we can do more to help schools and centres understand how to eliminate as far as we can those errors.”
- Students’ tweets can make a difference
Ms Collier spoke of the need for Ofqual to adapt to a new era in which pupils discuss their exams on social media. In some cases, this causes the watchdog to review questions or papers. “It’s our job in the midst of all that commentary to determine where there’s a genuine problem that needs to be looked at, and whether the exams were just hard,” she said.