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11 December 2011

Qualifications, standards, and the recent Daily Telegraph investigation

We have, today, released a detailed update on our position in relation to the Daily Telegraph's investigation into awarding bodies:

Qualifications, standards, and the recent Daily Telegraph investigation

Edexcel is deeply concerned by the matters raised by the Daily Telegraph’s investigation into events run by the UK’s major awarding organisations. The reputation of our education system is heralded internationally and we agree with the Secretary of State for Education that maintaining the international credibility and status of our exams is essential. To this end, Edexcel will co-operate fully with any and all investigations that Ofqual is carrying out, in the interests of building an improved education system in this country.

Since the publication of the Daily Telegraph story on Thursday evening, we have taken a number of actions:

  • We have analysed the detailed data from all five awarding bodies for the specific qualifications (GCSE geography, GCSE history, GCE English) highlighted in the story.  
       
  • We have applied a rigorous methodology to this data, which has been independently verified, and which enables the comparison of exam results awarded from one board to another, using statistics that are controlled for candidates of different ability based on their wider educational performance. The analysis of this data confirms that candidates are no more or less likely to achieve an A-C grade at GCSE or an A-E grade at A level if they take an Edexcel exam in these subjects, compared to exams from the other major awarding bodies.
        
  • We have also assessed the breadth and depth of the exam specifications for these Edexcel qualifications. We are confident that they represent the standard expected, specified, and indeed approved, by the regulator, Ofqual. They are also at least on a par with those of our fellow awarding bodies.

As a result of this analysis, we are certain that Edexcel’s qualifications are of the same standard as those of the other major awarding bodies.

On Thursday evening, on the basis of comments she made to an undercover reporter from the Daily Telegraph, we suspended Steph Warren, who is one of 106 Chief Examiners and over 12,500 examiners contracted to Edexcel on a part-time basis. We are confident that the personal opinions expressed by Ms Warren are not supported by the evidence.

We think it is vital for the integrity of the examination system that the Department for Education and the regulator, Ofqual, analyse the results achieved by all students in all subjects across all awarding bodies. This will ensure we can all take a rigorous, data-driven, research-based approach to key policy decisions. We are happy for our data to be made available, in order to enable this further scrutiny.

As of Monday December 12th, we are also putting in place new procedures which will enable Edexcel to have more control over the exact content of the events we hold, as well as enabling a much greater degree of transparency and public scrutiny around these events in the future. The immediate steps we are taking include:

  • recording all events;
  • ensuring that a full-time Edexcel employee attends each event, and gives an introduction to the purpose of the event and sets out what is and isn’t appropriate for discussion;
  • extending an open invitation to Ofqual and Department of Education officials to attend any, or all, of these events; and
  • creating renewed guidance for presenters about the content that it is appropriate to cover.

From early next year, we will also be placing online the information made available at these events, and free to any teacher who might find it of use.

We welcome a review of the current examination system and will participate fully in it.  Initiatives and incentives in the system, including league table points and targets, whilst designed with the very best of intentions, have sometimes placed teachers under too much pressure to “teach to the test” or focus excessively on exam results in ways that can be counter to the best interests of students.

Edexcel is committed to working with the Department for Education, Ofqual, schools, teachers, universities, employers and parents to make sure that our examination system and the qualifications we have in this country continue to represent the highest possible educational standards.

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Edexcel qualifications: an urgent review of the three qualifications called into question by the Daily Telegraph investigation (11 December 2011)

The standards of the qualifications

  • Edexcel’s subject experts have independently reviewed our exam specifications for geography and history GCSE, and for English A-level, against those of our fellow awarding organisations, to examine both the depth of knowledge and the breadth of learning required.
  • These reviews have confirmed that our specifications are of similar breadth and depth to those of other awarding bodies.
  • For each qualification, we have also reviewed cross-awarding body screening data, which also confirms similar standards of grading outcome compared to other awarding bodies for pupils of similar abilities.

Whether the integrity of forthcoming Edexcel examinations have been compromised

  • We have established as far as we can from currently available material that in our view, none of the comments made at Edexcel events compromise the integrity of forthcoming Edexcel examinations.  
  • We have done this by examining the limited footage and quotes that the Daily Telegraph have released to date; by interviewing several teachers who attended each event; and by interviewing the three Edexcel examiners in question.

We are continuing to share information on both issues with Ofqual, and will be happy to work with them during and after their investigation to implement any steps they recommend.

See related releases:

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