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Education select committee proposes plan to deal with “grade inflation”

Written on:July 3, 2023
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MPs report suggests single syllabus for each subject

Education select committee report has proposed a single syllabus for each subject to restore public confidence in the exam system by removing the problem of “grade inflation.”

Recognising the need to deal with the issue, MPs have recommended stripping exam boards of the right to set their own syllabuses. The report suggests that there could be a competition to decide which exam board would design the syllabus for a particular subject which would then be accredited by the regulator, Ofqual.Then, any board could set an exam for that syllabus and compete on innovation, efficiency, service and support.

But MPs feel that a single national exam board would be a disruptive change that would hamper innovation and make it harder to control costs. Graham Stuart, MP, Tory chairman of the select committee, said public confidence had been eroded by grade inflation.

“There has been grade inflation. There has been a denial of that going on. I think a recognition of where we’re at will help restore confidence. If you see the denial of obvious truths, that people see in their own lives, they will lose confidence in those who are vouching for that system”, he said.

The select committee’s report is critical of school league tables based on General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSEs). The inquiry heard evidence about the resources schools invest in getting students across the “C/D” grade boundary so their results count towards the standard measure of five A*-C grades including English and maths.

The MPs’ report raises concern that allowing examiners to write textbooks creates a potential conflict of interest. It warns exam boards against marketing text books as narrow guides to passing exams, with descriptions such as: “All you need for your course.”

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