Further memorandum submitted by Jim Knight
MP, Minister of State for Schools and Learners
Following my appearance before the Committee
on 18 February, I am writing to provide further details relating
to the evidence I gave. I hope the Committee will find this additional
information useful in making its report.
The Committee expressed concern that they were
not aware of any recent research into teachers' and parents' attitudes
We have recently consulted widely on the possible
new direction of assessment policy. Teachers were amongst those
consulted about our Making Good Progress proposals. Responses
to the consultation indicated general support for the idea of
taking a test when ready, although there was a lack of understanding
at that stage about how the single level tests would operate.
We also have an opportunity to learn more about
teachers', pupils' and parents' views through the Making Good
Progress pilot. As part of their independent evaluation of
that, PriceWaterhouseCoopers are conducting surveys with all these
groups, as well as interviews with teachers and pupil focus groups
in a small sample of the pilot schools.
We are also considering asking for parents views
on our proposals for future assessment policy, including the use
of Single Level Tests, as part of our forthcoming consultations
on the Children's Plan.
Furthermore, as part of a series of ongoing
research, Ipsos MORI was commissioned by the QCA to carry out
a sixth wave of research to assess teachers', parents', students'
and the general public's perceptions of the A level and GCSE exam
system shortly after the 2007 examinations session. This follows
five "waves" of a quantitative survey of perceptions
towards A levels between 2003 and 2006 (and, since 2004, perceptions
towards GCSEs). The report, GCSEs and A level: the experiences
of teachers, students, parents and the general public. A Research
Study Conducted for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority
(QCA) was published in last month. Some of the key findings
were as follows:
Teachers are most likely to
agree that most A level students get the grades their performance
deserves, followed by the students themselves. 63% of parents
agree with this statement.
Teachers are less likely to
express concerns about the A level system this year than previouslyover
a third (35%) claim they have no concerns.
Teachers' confidence in the
A level system continues to increase (76% now agree that they
have confidence in the system).
Just under three in five (59%)
A level teachers say they are confident in the accuracy and quality
of the marking of A level papers.
Teachers' confidence in the
GCSE system has increased since 2006 (76% agree they have confidence,
up from 66% in 2006).
Two-thirds of GCSE teachers
(67%) have confidence in the accuracy and quality of marking of
The same proportion of teachers
as the previous two years (77%) agree that the exam system needs
to be independently regulated and controlled by a body other than
the Department for Children, Schools and Families. In line with
last year, three-quarters (76%) of teachers feel that the QCA
is effective in this role.
Parents' concerns are similar
to those of teachers, with problems about how exams are graded
and marked coming out top, followed by how time consuming the
work is for students, and the number of exams that students face.
Concerns relating to coursework appear to be less of an issue
this year (possibly due to the removal of coursework from some
I have considered further the points that members
made about contextual value added (CVA), and its transparency
to parents. The prime purpose of the Tables is public accountabilityone
element of which is choice of school. This links to the presentation
of information for use by parents, and it should be considered
within the wider context, for example, by looking at parental
reactions to notions of progression, as I suggested in my answer
to Annette Brooke (Q355). I will also be looking at we already
know about parents' views on school accountability, and will then
consider whether more research is needed, or whether we should
indeed address questions of the presentation of CVA or other aspects
of school data.
The Committee expressed interest in the scrutiny
of appointments to the new independent regulatory body for qualifications
and examinations. Subject to Parliament passing the necessary
legislation, the Chair of the Office of the Qualifications and
Examinations Regulator will be a Crown appointment. Prior to legislation,
an interim regulator will be established as a committee of the
QCA, to carry out the regulatory functions of the QCA as they
are currently set out in legislation. The Chair of the interim
regulator is being recruited under Office of the Commissioner
for Public Appointments rules, and will become the first Chair
of the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator.
The establishing legislation will reflect official
advice on the appropriate processes to be followed for public
appointments to the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations
Regulator. On 23 January 2008, the Minister for the Cabinet Office
sent to the Liaison Committee a list of existing public appointments
which the Government propose should be subject to the pre-appointment
scrutiny by their relevant Select Committee, and placed a copy
in the Library of the House.
Ed Balls wrote to you on 17 December, when the
consultation document Confidence in Standards was published,
and invited the Committee to consider how best it could monitor
and review the work of the new statutory regulator and the interim
I hope this information helps the Committee
in its Inquiry and I look forward to seeing the report.