Commons Select Committee on Education: Introduce National Syllabuses

Commons Select Committee on Education published 1st Report – The administration of examinations for 15-19 year olds in England [pdf: Volume I, Volume 2, Volume 3].

From the statement by the Chair of the Committee, Graham Stuart MP:

The public have lost confidence in exam standards and this needs to be put right. We’ve got to stop the dumbing down of the courses young people sit and stop exam boards competing on how ‘accessible’ their syllabuses are.

You could move to a single national exam board which would stop the ‘race to the bottom’ but the change would be disruptive and threaten innovation and cost control. Alternatively there are benefits to having one exam board per subject but such “franchising” would create its own difficulties over pricing, tendering and the concentration of expertise.

We believe the best reform would be the creation of National Syllabuses. There could be a competition, such as the Secretary of State has already suggested, to decide which exam board would design the syllabus for a particular subject which would then be accredited by the regulator, Ofqual. After that any board could set an exam for that syllabus and compete on innovation, efficiency, service and support. Ofqual would ensure that exam boards didn’t compete by making papers easier and could readily identify problems and make statistical adjustments if necessary.