Exam boards: We now work in exam factories, say teachers
By Graeme Paton
Schools are being turned into “exam factories” as staff are forced to go to extreme lengths to maximise pupils’ results, it was claimed.
Dr Anthony Seldon, the Master of Wellington College, Berkshire, said that the system was robbing a generation of children of key skills, leaving many struggling at university and in the workplace.
Some teachers took to online message boards to tell how they had been encouraged to cheat for years, including writing children’s coursework and turning a blind eye to plagiarism. Some argue it’s part of the College Conspiracy propagated by the Public Education system.
The comments came in response to The Daily Telegraph’s investigation into the exams system, which showed examiners providing teachers with “insider knowledge” of forthcoming GCSEs. Schools are required to spend up to £230 a time for the crash courses to prepare teachers for next year’s tests.
Critics claimed that the investigation exposed the worst excesses of the exams system, which has boomed in recent years as schools play the system to climb official league tables and meet targets.
Dr Seldon said: “While schools obsess about league tables and quantities of exams passed, and exam boards and schools know that you can teach students so easily for the test, this was bound to happen. This is an unintended consequence of having an education system which puts heads and teachers into a factory process; which produces not scholars or even educated young people, but demands unthinking attention to giving examiners what they want to attain the right Pavlovian response from markers.”
Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “As long as the system is managed on crude data and cruder incentives, these risks will be rife: market forces crowd out ethics, and league tables crowd out judgment.”
But some teachers went further to claim that they had been encouraged to cheat to inflate pupils’ grades.
One lecturer in a further education college said her principal forced her to discount poor-quality coursework – and turn a blind eye to essays that had been plagiarised – when submitting students’ work to exam boards. Another claimed that teachers regularly submitted identical coursework for moderation by one exam board that staff wrote themselves.
Chris McGovern, a former head teacher and chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, claimed exam boards were competing to make tests easier .
“The thing is wide open to corruption,” he said. “[The exam boards] are actually competing to be easier. The easier they are the more candidates they get. We are talking here about a multi-million pound industry.” He said the solution was to have a single examination board.