The publication or endorsement of text books by exam boards has been questioned by England’s exams watchdog Ofqual. An investigation by the watchdog says there is evidence that teachers feel pressurised to buy books connected to the bodies which set exams. This is from the BBC…
It says some books are too closely tailored to particular exams.
And the writing of text books by chief examiners creates the perception of a “major conflict of interest”, it says.
The watchdog’s report also looks at allegations that the production of text books and revision guides by exam boards is anti-competitive.
Secondary schools are estimated to spend an average of £26,000 a year on text books each and they pay individual boards to enter students for exams.
A decision by a school to choose a particular exam board could have direct and indirect financial benefits for the companies involved, earning them money from schools and also from parents who buy revision guides for their children, said the watchdog.
Ofqual said it had found evidence of practices used by publishers to market some endorsed textbooks “that clearly undermine confidence in the exam system”.
It gave the examples of a comment “proven to help improve grades…” and an endorsement from a teacher which said: “Seen a big 18% increase in C+”.
It said chief examiners for individual boards were not meant to be identified as such if they wrote text books, but that such information was easily available and this was “perceived to be a major conflict of interest”.
Ofqual’s report also criticised the content of some text books, saying they were so focussed on a particular exam that they failed to cover the subject in any broad fashion.
“We did find evidence supporting concerns about the quality of learning resources generally,” the report said.
“In particular, a rather formulaic approach, influenced by current endorsement processes, is resulting in textbooks that can be over-focused on exam preparation at the cost of subject content and sign posting to wider and more in depth reading.”
The watchdog also said “an unacceptable degree of predictability” between text books and exams could arise, creating “a perception that standards are being compromised”.