Exam chief: ‘you don’t have to teach a lot’ for our tests Steph Warren, a chief examiner at Edexcel, one of Britain’s biggest exam boards, has been recorded boasting about the easiness of the company’s tests.
Ms Warren, the chief examiner for Edexcel GCSE Geography, said that teachers should pick her company’s exam because “you don’t have to teach a lot”.
Ms Warren also expressed her disbelief that the geography exam had been cleared by the official regulator.
She said: “There’s so little [in the exam] we don’t know how we got it through [the exam regulator]”. She claimed it was “a lot smaller [than other boards] and that’s why a lot of people came to us.”
The conversation, involving an undercover reporter and two teachers, took place at an Edexcel seminar in Birmingham last month. It will also raise concerns about the rigour of exam papers and standards.
The comments will fuel concerns by head teachers that competition between exam boards has driven down standards and undermined the integrity of the education system.
In a statement, Edexcel said: “We are certain that Edexcel exams meet the same standards as other awarding bodies. We do not actively market them as easier exams. When this has happened in the past we have acted quickly to tighten up internal controls to ensure it does not happen again.”
The revelations over Ms Warren’s attitudes to her firm’s own exam come after The Daily Telegraph disclosed how exam boards were found to have ‘cheated’ by giving secret advice to teachers on how to improve GCSE and A-level results.
Two history examiners, Paul Evans and Paul Barnes, have been suspended following the Telegraph’s first series of stories on Thursday into the alleged “corrupt practices” of exam boards.
The two men were secretly filmed briefing teachers at paid-for seminars, during which they gave advice on exam questions and the exact wording pupils should use to obtain higher marks.
In one case, Mr Evans, a chief examiner with the Welsh WJEC exam board, was recorded telling teachers that a compulsory question in a certain exam goes through a “cycle”.
He added: “We’re cheating. We’re telling you the cycle (of the compulsory question). Probably the regulator will tell us off.”
In a statement, the WJEC board said it was taking allegations of cheating “very seriously indeed” and was “investigating the circumstances” revealed by an undercover reporter as a matter of urgency.
Michael Gove, the education secretary, said the revelations “confirm that the current system is discredited” and has ordered an inquiry by Ofqual.
David Cameron’s official spokesman said: “We are very clear that our exam system needs fundamental reform.
“The revelations we have seen today show our current system is discredited. We are very clear we will take whatever action is necessary to restore faith in the exam system.”
Asked if that meant last year’s exam results were not worth the paper they were written on, he said: “I don’t think that’s the right conclusion to draw but there’s clear a problem and we need to address that.”
Francis Thomas, director of internal and external affairs at Ofqual, said boards could be fined or shut down altogether.
“An act of Parliament has just been passed that gives us powers to fine [exam boards] and that will be in place early in the New Year,” he said. “But actually the ultimate sanction we have got is we can actually take an awarding organisation and put it out of business by telling it that it cannot run exams any more.
“We need to look at the evidence and assess whether, at one end of the scale, this is systematic right through the qualifications business or is this just one or two rogue operators who have gone beyond their brief.
“Depending where it is on that scale we have the powers and we will take the action because we do not want to see the confidence in our qualifications system being undermined.”
Pupils facing examinations this January could have their papers “pulled” and re-set, should exam boards be found to have given improper guidance over expected questions.
An Edexcel spokesperson said:
“Our examiners have a duty to uphold high academic standards at all times and like us, they should take this responsibility very seriously.
“In the video Steph Warren appears to imply that the standard of the specification is not as high as it should be.
“In light of the video the Telegraph has made available, there is strong evidence that Steph has not taken her responsibility to uphold standards seriously.
“We will investigate both this issue and the allegations regarding disclosure of future exam content, and during this, suspend her from her duties as an examiner. We will not pre-judge the outcome of any investigation.
I am a University teacher . Next September – as in most recent years – I will be confronted by lecture halls full of barely numerate and hardly literate students.Despite being some of the most highly qualified young people in history, many of them know almost nothing. I regularly have to reassure them that the Allies won the first world war. They are often unable to express themselves in any recognisable language, and most assume that the conjugation of verbs is a sex, rather than syntactical, act.