ASCL Conference, Exams

Ofqual chief would use exam conditions for coursework amid ChatGPT fears

Dr Jo Saxton says concern over AI cheating 'reinforces the importance' of exams

Dr Jo Saxton says concern over AI cheating 'reinforces the importance' of exams

Ofqual’s chief regulator has said she would make students do coursework under exam conditions if she was a school leader, amid fears ChatGPT could be used to cheat.

Dr Jo Saxton, the regulator’s boss, told the ASCL school leaders’ conference that the advanced AI chatbot “reinforces the importance” of exams that “have stood the test of time so well”.

She said if she was running a centre now “I wouldn’t be asking for the pieces of coursework or the essays that contribute to the grade to be done at home or in school holidays. I’d be doing them in invigilated conditions in my centre”.

“I think oddly, that innovation means the examined approach is more important than ever because you’ve got that integrity of whose work it is.”

The regulator is currently working with exam boards, the Department for Education and others in the education sector “on the need for additional guidance that will apply to GCSE, AS and A-levels,” a spokesperson said this week.

It will “be about making sure that schools, colleges and students understand that artificial intelligence tools must not be used to cheat, in particular to generate work that students then pass off as their own as is also the case for other information obtained from the internet or elsewhere”.

It follows reports of schools scrapping homework for fears of cheating as top universities ban the use of AI in coursework and exams.

Saxton said Ofqual was looking at the “opportunities” of using AI, but wants to make sure it doesn’t disadvantage students.

‘Grades will be lower’

This year, GCSE and A-level grades will return to pre-pandemic standards but with a “soft landing” as a form of protection for students.

It’s part of a step back to normal grading after record breaking results when quality assured grades were awarded by teachers during Covid disruption.

Saxton said she met with the Department for Education this morning to say “we’ve got to be really, really clear that you explain the context of results in 2023 because they are going to be lower”.

“I think that there’s no getting away from that. I need everyone to go into that with their eyes open,” she said.

“It doesn’t mean something’s gone wrong…it’s part of our national move back towards pre-pandemic normality.”

Make uni offers after results day, says Saxton

The Ofqual chief also called for a move to a system of post-qualification admissions to university, despite the government having scrapped such a move last year.

Saxton said “we should be moving to a system where offers are after we have results”.

She said she was “really amazed” by statistics showing only around 20 per cent of students who got places at university achieved or exceeded their predicted grades in 2019.

But last year ministers dropped their plans to overhaul university admissions to offer students places based on exam results.

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