Page 8 - Independent Schools Magazine
P. 8

...the occasional feature where heads are invited to comment on, support, knock-down an editor’s hypothesis on an education-related topic
Talking Point
Headlines such as this have damaged the credibility of
all concerned. It is now imperative that all schools follow the best practice
of some in not allowing their staff to help set papers for exam boards where their own students sit those same exams from the same boards.
Another solution would be for each exam board to produce
a bank of questions and mark schemes on each subject - and to publish them. No one would know in which exam papers or years the questions would appear (they’d
be selected by non-teachers or teachers from another exam board), and the bank would be added to each year. Transparency would remove any unfair advantage in one fell swoop.
I’m all for examinations as a
means of testing students’ ability and focus but, increasingly, the quality of a child’s education is
not indicated only by the grades they receive. Employers tell us
the ability to think critically, independently and work with others are the most important skills of the digital age, a viewpoint we should all bear in mind during the discussions ahead.
Michael Windsor, Headmaster, Abingdon School, Oxfordshire: The ‘cheating’
scandals that hit the press
shortly after the release of public examination results this year stole
a degree of the lustre from another year of excellent grades for the independent sector. Without doubt, these allegations played to the prejudices of those opposed to our sector, with their whiff of privilege and back-scratching.
Responses to the affair included suggestions that teachers should not be involved in the preparation or marking of exam scripts. But
this would be a disappointing and unsustainable outcome. Our public examination system relies upon colleagues from the maintained and independent sector who are prepared - for fairly meagre rewards – to devote time to producing or assessing papers. It is to the bene t of all candidates if serving teachers have had an input into setting exams as they have the expertise
to ensure that questions of an appropriate standard and style are included. Setting an exam script that challenges students of a wide
Enquiry underway
range of ability and that will yield the full spread of results is a highly demanding and re ned task and we should not underestimate the vital role that experienced teachers play in this process.
However, the probity of our examination system must be sacrosanct. It should surely be possible for exam boards to create structures which ensure suf cient distance between question-setters and those pulling  nal papers together. The inquiry from Ofsted into the affair is to be welcomed as a further opportunity to  nd solutions that can uphold the integrity of our exam system.
Of course, heads and exam boards alike also need to remind colleagues of the paramount importance of the highest professional standards when it comes to public examinations - as there should be in all our dealings! It does seem that in the few
cases where malpractice has been uncovered, schools have taken the allegations very seriously indeed and have taken swift and robust action.
This has, then, been an unfortunate and untimely episode. But I
will continue to encourage my colleagues to play their part in
the public examination system as the contribution of the teaching profession is invaluable.
Mark Ronan, Pocklington School, Yorkshire:
As a newly- quali ed teacher, not yet in post,
I was asked to submit multiple choice questions for an exam board. The experience was invaluable
for making me focus on the
best ways of assessing students’ understanding of a topic and undoubtedly helped inform my approach to teaching.
It is largely due to that experience that I maintain that teachers are best-placed to set and mark exam papers. But every exam board should, as a matter of urgency, join a full and open discussion about the best way to remove any con ict of interest.
I think the time has come for exam boards to produce pools of peer-assessed exam questions and marking schemes. Barnaby Lenon, Chairman of the Independent Schools Council, has  oated
the idea of a bank of questions which all exam boards could have access to. Although I applaud
the principle, it remains to be seen whether the competing organisations would be willing to cooperate so closely.
The Government has announced that Ofqual has begun an enquiry. Schools Minister Nick Gibb said Ofqual is now reviewing the rules under which teachers take part in writing and reviewing question papers. “The overwhelming majority of teachers act appropriately when working with exam materials but where they do not schools have a responsibility to report it to the exam board for investigation”, he said. Ofqual is thought to be assessing whether teachers should be allowed to set exams for boards used by their schools, or be given knowledge of which questions will appear in the tests before they are sat.
Schools are invited to submit comments to publicenquiry@ofqual.gov.uk
Unique Graduation Ceremony
Eleven Sixth Formers from Ashville College participated in their own graduation ceremony over the summer.
The American students have graduated from Ashville College – one of only two schools in the country to be af liated to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) – with an American High School Diploma, ensuring they are eligible for further studies back home.
Two years ago, Ashville launched its International Studies Program, which gives American students the opportunity to study at a traditional independent British School while continuing to meet US educational requirements.
Developed in conjunction with, and supported by
the U.S. State Department, the programme promotes internationalism and allows the pupils to achieve their international educational goals.
8 Independent Schools Magazine
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