I have been a teacher for 27 years, a Headteacher for 12 years and, at the age of 51, this much I know about why it is tempting to teach to the examination board-endorsed text book.
Glenys Stacey calls for a teachers’ code of ethics. I agree with her. But (Head) teachers are rightly challenged to ensure every single student gets the best examination outcomes possible, in a system where the following is common place…

OCR Economics A level, unit F583

Question paper:
QP 583
Text book:
p66 OCR text book
Mark scheme:
MS 583
See other examples in much more detail here

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This post has 6 Comments

  1. I’m sorry, but I cannot agree that such collusion is the right thing to do. It is intellectually weak, and we are supposed to be educating young people, not brainwashing them or turning them into performing animals.
    Head teachers may be challenged to deliver for children good exam results (though I actually thought that was the pupils’ job!) – but I would argue they also have a significant role to play in upholding the ethics and proper practice of the education system. Colluding with this kind of behaviour is not the way to do that.

  2. This is such a difficult thing to untangle. There was a time when the specifications were far less prescriptive and the examination questions much more free-ranging and no-one taught to the test because you couldn’t really, and accountability for results was quite low anyway. The problem is then not the A grade student who has been taught well and read and understood very widely but the mid-grade student who gets their knickers in a twist in the exam and fails. The problem is really the highest of high-stakes associated with the final exam, which in turn is really about the use by universities of A-Level grades as the great filter. Blaming universities is also a problem because use of exam grades is less discriminatory against low SES applicants than interviewing. If A Level courses had a really wide mixture of frequent, cumulative exams (not like modules but more like internal tests in feel, with external marking and cumulative content), and a portfolio of coursework, marked and moderated by experienced subject specialist teachers then that might be a solution but it would be awfully expensive. The current system is a kind of cut price route to mass-participation in post-16 and higher education; like most modern washing machines the price is attractive but the value not so great.

  3. Lots of different narratives at work here – and I write as a Principal Examiner, who hasn’t written a textbook. The bottom line is a shortage of examiners, although, at an AQA Economics INSET day years ago I did suggest paying more, this was dismissed out of hand much to the amusement of every Economics teacher in the room. How else do you resolve a shortage?
    However, the other problem is the prescriptive nature of many mark schemes. We are fortunate in being a small cohort examination and that allows us to be flexible in our application of the mark scheme – and, on occasion, we amend the mark scheme to reflect some of the areas that candidates have investigated that we haven’t foreseen. Our mark schemes are also explicit in stating “Answers should be primarily assessed on the basis of good economics, clearly explained and/or illustrated” (i.e. they are not going to be prescriptively applied!) Another plus is that with experienced subject-specialists we are able to judge scripts on their merits.
    I have another problem with the textbook/mark scheme relationship: I am not allowed to do any CPD relating to my examination board because I have an awareness of live scripts, and yet people who are also in the same position are permitted to write textbooks which appear to contain the exact wording of answers to ‘live scripts’. How are the two different?
    Again, as an economist, banning Principal Examiners from offering any CPD strikes me as a ‘second best solution’ if that, but that’s a discussion for another day…
    And fundamentally, the author of the first comment is correct: is the moral compass of the Exam Board really correctly aligned? (Alternatively, I always enjoy suggesting that exam boards are a great example of profit-maximizers!)

  4. You can get this information in lots of ways – why not save money on text books and support more independent learning in the classroom – would also encourage valid and diverse answers to open questions like this . Would challenge too the oligarchy or cartel that profits from your education system

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