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Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
Shake up exams, say heads
exam hall
Pupils are over-examined say heads
Head teachers in secondary schools are calling for radical changes to the exams system.

Proposals outlined by the Secondary Heads Association (SHA) include a cut in the total number of exams children sit and a move towards assessment by school teachers rather than outside examiners.

Head teachers' leaders say the furore over alleged grade-fixing in A-levels makes the call for reform even more urgent.

They want schools to have their own "chartered examiners", teachers whose job it would be to check exams and maintain standards.

Public trust

The examiners would be experienced teachers who were accredited by one of the exam boards to do the job.

The general secretary of SHA, John Dunford, said: "The cornerstone of this is developing a system which creates more public trust in the professionalism of teachers.

"On that, we should be able to reduce the number of external exams.

"We are in a mess over assessment. For a country that does so much assessing, I think we do it very badly."

The head teachers also believe some of the stress could be taken out of exams by having on-line assessments instead of traditional exams.

Tomlinson

They want decisions on GCSE and AS-level grades to be determined by the assessment of teachers in school.

But they believe the second part of the new A-level system, the A2 exams taken after two years' study, should still be based on external exams and coursework.

A spokeswoman for the department for education and skills said: "Mike Tomlinson will provide a first report on A-level grading on Friday.

"The government is committed to raising standards in schools and believes that external assessment of pupil progress is necessary in order to achieve higher standards.

"It is an important way of monitoring children's ability."

One exam board

Conor Ryan, former adviser to Education Secretary Estelle Morris's predecessor, David Blunkett, said Ms Morris should create one single exam board.

"There is no justification for three English exam boards," Mr Ryan writes in a column in the Independent newspaper.

"Competition has produced little innovation and their credibility was poor before recent allegations.

"A single national board would set comparable standards and syllabuses for all students."

Mr Ryan said it was essential to have transparency in the exams system.

The alleged A-level grades manipulation

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08 Jul 02 | Education
20 Sep 02 | Mike Baker
19 Sep 02 | Education
17 Sep 02 | Education
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