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Last Updated: Monday, 17 November, 2003, 11:47 GMT
100m scheme to modernise exams
Exam board
There are moves to streamline the flow of paperwork
The government has set out plans to modernise the exam system in England to make it "fit for the 21st Century".

Its 100m proposals include setting up a National Assessment Agency to work with the exam boards.

There will be higher fees and better training for examiners, and more resources for schools' exam officers.

The movement of papers around the system is to be streamlined and made more secure, in part through the increased use of new technology.

The Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, said: "This programme of work represents a considerable investment in the examinations system.

"I believe it will make for an efficient, robust and modern examinations system such that our young people deserve."

Burden on schools

The new assessment agency is to be "a subsidiary unit" of the existing Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), which will remain as the watchdog of the system.

The QCA's chairman, Sir Anthony Greener, said: "I welcome this investment as modernisation is urgently needed, and the QCA will be leading the activity to drive forward change."

He said modernising the system of A-levels and GCSEs should reduce the burden on schools and colleges.

Part of the government's plans include "upgrading" examinations offices in schools and colleges and better supporting the work of their exam officers by, for example, providing training, spreading best practice and helping to improve office equipment.

The new agency will take on the running of the compulsory national curriculum tests taken in schools - tackling an anomaly which sees the QCA currently both setting and regulating those tests.

But shadow health and education secretary Tim Yeo said: "Instead of spending a hundred million pounds of taxpayers money on a new quango, we should be making the QCA institutionally independent, like the Bank of England, to stop the annual ritual of allegations of dumbing down in the exams process.

"This is not reform, this is just the creation of yet another costly bureaucracy that will not stop the problems in the exams process, and will only serve to create another layer of red tape in an already over burdened sector."

The Liberal Democrats said the government had missed the point.

Spokesman John Pugh said: "British students remain the most highly tested in Europe. Schools need a drastic reduction in the volume of testing.

"Charles Clarke keeps investing in an examination system that puts pupils, parents and teachers under pressure.

"Only once the exam burden has been lifted from school communities will teachers be able to deliver a curriculum appropriate for every individual child."

Edexcel is one of the exam boards which have been piloting electronic marking of exams.

Its chief executive, John Kerr, said: "New technology reduces risk and can transform the learning experience.

"We look forward to continuing to play a leading role in taking these technology-led initiatives forward."


SEE ALSO:
Testing students by mobile phone
17 Nov 03  |  Education
Bill for school test data soars
19 Aug 03  |  Education
Exams cost school more than books
15 Oct 02  |  Education
Colleges 'overloaded' by A-levels
10 Jun 03  |  Education
Too much testing - says exams chief
29 Nov 02  |  Education


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