Exams

Ofqual: We won’t let robot markers take over

Dr Jo Saxton thinks England needs a mixed approach to digital exams

Dr Jo Saxton thinks England needs a mixed approach to digital exams

Ofqual chief regulator Dr Jo Saxton has said she will not allow robots to take over marking students’ work – but some artificial intelligence (AI) could improve spotting errors.

Saxton told the Festival of Education how the exams watchdog thinks England needs a mixed approach to digital exams: some on-screen, others with traditional pen and paper.

However, she confirmed that when it comes to “relying solely on artificial intelligence to mark students’ work, this is not something that we’re going to allow”.

Ofqual does think AI “has a place to do things like quality assurance of human marking, spotting errors, those sort of things”, Saxton added. “But it cannot and will not replace humans. And Ofqual is going to make sure of that.”

In terms of AI, Saxton added Ofqual was “miles off the sense of it being safe enough to be sole marking”.

Regulator reveals AI research findings

This year there were 70,000 markers across 15 million scripts, she said.

Saxton, a former academy trust boss, revealed some headlines from new research on the future of assessment.

Just one in five students and parents thought all GCSEs should be taken on a computer. In addition, 48 per cent of students and 54 per cent of parents preferred a mixture. Most thought exams going on-screen was four to six years away from implementation.

Respondents also felt the new approach would not work for music, drama, art or PE. Their main concerns were about cheating, data security and “potential unfairness that could arise from unequal access to technology”.

Saxton said: “We should take the best of the traditional tried, tested and trusted approaches, and bring in some of the modern innovations too. In other words, we’re not getting rid of handwriting anytime soon.”

Ofqual and the Department for Education are running a “feasibility study” on “what it would take” to make GCSE and A-level exams “fully digital”, Saxton added.

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