Exams

Onscreen exams can’t ‘experiment with pupils’ futures’ – Ofqual chair

Tech in exams 'a case of when not if', but regulator's job is not to be 'evangelist of technology', says Bauckham

Tech in exams 'a case of when not if', but regulator's job is not to be 'evangelist of technology', says Bauckham

Moving exams on-screen must not result in an “experiment with young peoples’ futures”, Ofqual’s chair has warned.

Ian Bauckham said greater use of technology for GCSEs and A-levels was “coming down the track and is probably a case of when not if”.

But he told the Schools and Academies Show that Ofqual’s job is to regulate exams for students, not to be an “evangelist of technology”.

Bauckham, also CEO at Tenax Schools Trust, warned “we cannot take risks with young people’s qualifications”, and they “must be led” by “robust evidence”.

Ofqual is conducting research on online tests, including investigating adaptive testing – a computerised test that adjusts the difficulty of questions as students go through it – to replace tiering.

Exam board AQA has launched an online pilot where thousands of students sit onscreen tests.

Bauckham said Ofqual will be “cautious”, but added greater use of technology could benefit some students such as those with special educational needs and disabilities.

“We will need to make a detailed and sober assessment of risk and benefits and not experiment with young peoples’ futures.

“If exam boards tell us they want to use technology for some aspects of their examinations, we need as a regulator already to have done the spadework to know what it is we should be expecting from exam boards to make sure they use technology well and fairly and in the interest of the students.”

‘Misleading’ to compare results with Covid years

The Ofqual chair also told schools to expect 2023 results to be lower than 2022, with a return to pre-pandemic standards planned, albeit with some protections.

He added it was “very misleading to compare your results this year, 2022, with any other year”.

“And looking ahead to next year, lower results in 2023 compared with this year 2022 will not mean by itself that your school’s performance has fallen…it will be much more likely to be a reflection of the return nationally to normal grading standards.

“I know that it really can feel worrying when results come in and they look lower than the previous year. But let me repeat this point, we should not compare 2023 with 2022 and certainly not with 2020 and 2021 when we had no exams at all.”

Schools Week revealed how dozens of school leaders have agreed to stay tight-lipped over their A-level and GCSE results, warning against “futile and potentially damaging” comparisons given Covid upheaval.

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