8 Support: training and textbooks |
142. Professor Stephen Ball of the British Academy
told us that "the market in examining is part of a much larger
market in educational services".
Teacher support is a key area of competition between the exam
boards and a growth area in terms of their activity (though not
necessarily revenue). In this chapter we focus on two key areas
of support: training and endorsed textbooks.
143. In December 2011 the Daily Telegraph conducted
an investigation that raised questions about the nature of training
offered to teachers by exam boards, in particular whether examiners
were giving too much information to teachers on likely question
areas or topics that might compromise the security and standards
of exams. Similar concerns featured in evidence to our inquiry.
ACME told us that training sessions "risk being focused on
coaching participants on how to pass the examination" and
Dr Tony Gardner of the University of Birmingham warned that training
"can too easily slip into explaining to teachers how to train
students to maximise marks".
Others were more cautious. Professor Sir John of the Wellcome
Trust told us that "I don't think we should say blanket-fashion
that dialogue between examiners and teachers is wrong because,
at its best, it can be constructive".
However, he acknowledged that "there is an enormous amount
of sailing close to the wind in the way that those with inside
information about the examinations use that knowledge, which,
frankly, is in an unprofessional way". 
144. In its initial report into the Daily Telegraph
allegations, Ofqual concluded that "teacher seminars have
their place", but acknowledged that "there is a fine
line" and that exam boards "need to make sure that in
their seminars, lines are not crossed". 
In its final report, Ofqual reached a rather different conclusion:
that "there is a real risk that inappropriate information
about the future content of secure exams is disclosed. And there
is a risk of narrowing the curriculum through sessions on how
to teach the specification." Ofqual concluded that "it
is not possible to reduce the risks to an acceptable level, and
so seminars relating to particular qualifications should stop".
This decision will take effect from August 2013. Ofqual's report
suggests that information needed by teachers about the structure
of a qualification and its assessment should be made readily available
to all schools and colleges via the internet.
145. All three exam boards have stated, both in evidence
to us and more widely, their commitment to supporting schools
in preparing students for examinations. Exam board chief executives
emphasized to us that almost all the information given at training
sessions is freely available on their websites, but that some
schools prefer "face-to-face" interaction. OCR described
Ofqual's action to end face-to-face seminars as "a rushed
decision" and expressed disappointment that Ofqual had not
consulted more widely with teachers.
AQA and Pearson emphasized that much of their training is already
offered as web-based support and that they will expand this approach
146. It is important that schools have access to
high quality information about qualifications that enables them
to prepare their students for assessments. We agree with Ofqual
that there are "fairer and safer ways in which information
can be shared with teachers".
Indeed, it was pointed out to us that "we have one of the
most transparent systems in the world in terms of what we publish"
and a great deal of information about GCSEs and A levels is already
disseminated through examiners' reports, question papers, mark
schemes, syllabuses and associated guidance materials.
147. We had particular concerns about exam boards
offering enhanced or tailored support to individual schools or
groups of schools in exchange for loyalty to a particular qualification
over a specified period of time. We consider that such bespoke
training could easily lead to "lines being crossed"
and inappropriate information being given to schools. We were
pleased to note Ofqual's finding that "there are particularly
high risks where bespoke qualifications training seminars are
offered to individual schools".
Ofqual's decision to end qualification-specific training rightly
extends to these events for individual schools.
148. There is a common perception that, as exam boards
often charge for attendance at seminars (between £100 and
£200 per delegate according to Ofqual),
they make a profit on training offered to schools.
Income data provided by the exam boards confirmed what senior
exam board officials had told us: that exam boards make a loss
on training. It is, however, very much part of the package of
support used to market qualifications to schools. Clearly, some
aspects of this support will need to change in the light of Ofqual's
decision to end exam board seminars relating to specific qualifications.
149. We believe that the exam system has placed examiners
involved in training in a difficult position, with fine lines
to navigate. While some were able to do this appropriately and
successfully, others were not, and neither the exam boards nor
Ofqual were monitoring closely enough.
We welcome Ofqual's decision to end exam board training on specific
qualifications. Ofqual needs to monitor the impact of its decision
and the activities and materials produced by exam boards to replace
their seminars. We also recommend that Ofqual monitor other training
offered by exam boards, such as marketing events to promote new
syllabuses, and more general training, for example on improving
results, taking further action if needed. Ofqual must ensure that
a school's loyalty to a particular exam board cannot be rewarded
with access to information not available to others.
150. Many of the concerns about training also exist
with regard to exam board endorsed textbooks, frequently written
by senior examiners. Textbooks emerged as an area of particular
contention in our inquiry. The Government has said that it has
"serious concerns" about the links between exam boards
The DfE itself identified the key issues raised in submissions
to us. These are:
- examiner authorship
- the impact on competition in the publishing market
(exclusive endorsements and the close alignment of exams and publishing
- the branding and marketing of endorsed textbooks
- the variable quality of endorsed textbooks and
their narrowing impact on teaching and learning
151. As with training, income data provided by the
exam boards show that exam boards make very little money from
endorsed textbooks, but such books are used to help market qualifications
to schools. Pearson told us that "we publish teaching resources
as part of an integrated support package which is closely linked
to our GCSE and GCE specification from Edexcel".
AQA stated that "endorsement acts as a kite-mark; quality
assurance ensures the text accurately interprets the specification
and assessment arrangements" and OCR aims for "a strong
and varied range of support materials" for all its qualifications.According
to AQA, having endorsed resources "helps restrain the most
misleading market provision".
152. The predominant pattern in recent years has
been for exam board endorsed textbooks to be written by senior
examiners. AQA told us that "examiners are leading subject
experts and usually practising teachers, so are well-placed to
act as authors".
On the other hand, others argued that "the skills involved
in being an effective examiner are not the same as those needed
to devise good curriculum materials".
Many have also suggested that examiner authorship leads to a potential
or actual conflict of interest for examiners when writing textbooks
in a subject where they are responsible for setting and maintaining
national standards in exams. One examiner told the Committee that
"a conflict of interest is not inevitable, but if the boundaries
are ignored, then it would be".
Others have taken a stronger line, describing examiner authorship
as "insider dealing"
and have suggested that examiners "should not be compromised
by gaining financially from endorsing textbooks".
153. All three exam boards place contractual restrictions
on their examiners, which prohibit them from disclosing their
exam board affiliation when writing textbooks. In 2011 Pearson
introduced a new code of conduct for examiners, preventing them
from being the main author of textbooks linked to syllabuses for
which they set question papers. Rod Bristow told us that Pearson
had introduced the change because the situation "was putting
examiners in quite a difficult position".
For the same reason, Edexcel examiners are no longer allowed to
be directly involved in the training of students (but may still
train teachers). Pearson is also "piloting approaches to
prevent examiners from having any involvement in writing any resources
for courses they examine".
Mark Dawe of OCR told us that if trust in examiners and in the
system as a whole is evaporating then
it may be that we are reaching the point where anyone
who has seen a question relating to the future cannot be involved
in seminars or books, because they have that question in their
head [...] but if the sacrifice we have to make is to put some
of those things in place to regain the public's trust, that is
what we are going to do.
154. While we can see that there are strong arguments
for senior examiners being well placed to write textbooks, we
are concerned that there is a potential conflict of interest for
examiners involved in question paper setting also writing textbooks
that are linked closely to the same syllabus. We welcome indications
that exam boards may place tighter restrictions on the role of
examiners in textbook authorship.
that Ofqual make clear the expected future role of examiners in
textbook authorship, in order to ensure a consistent industry-wide
ENDORSEMENT ARRANGEMENTS AND THEIR
IMPACT ON COMPETITION
155. Links between publishers and the three English
exam boards take several forms. Textbooks linked to Edexcel exams
are either published by Pearson (the Edexcel Own range)
or are produced by other publishers, such as Oxford University
Press (OUP) or Hodder Education, and then endorsed by Edexcel.
AQA had until recently an exclusive partnership with Nelson Thornes,
and OCR has formal partnerships with three publishers as well
as endorsing books by other publishers.
156. Two of these arrangements were brought to our
attention in particular, by representatives in both education
and publishing, with the suggestion that they had a negative impact
on competition in the publishing market and may ultimately risk
reducing the range of resources available to schools. One was
the exclusive endorsement arrangement between AQA and Nelson Thornes;
the other was the close alignment of publishing and exams at Pearson.
AQA's arrangement with Nelson Thornes has now ended.
Although we appreciate that there were sound reasons for AQA's
exclusive endorsement arrangement with Nelson Thornes when it
was agreed (securing resources to support a wide range of syllabuses),
we agree that exclusive endorsement arrangements risk limiting
the range of resources available to schools. We
recommend that Ofqual consider restricting exclusive endorsement
arrangements between exam boards and publishers in future.
157. Kate Harris, Managing Director of the Education
and Children's Division at OUP was critical of the close alignment
of publishing and exams at Pearson and called for "guaranteed
actual or perceived independence between those setting and marking
exams and defining specification, and those who are publishing
resources for them".
Pearson told us that "we have very strict firewalls between
the people involved in textbooks and in the actual examinations"
and that "there is no chance of anything that is going on
in any publishing activity leaking back or influencing what is
in the question papers".
However, OUP pointed out that "in terms of the spec development,
there are very close links [...] the specification development
bit is very integrated with the publishing".
Glenys Stacey of Ofqual told us that "for the moment, awarding
bodies are required to have conflict-of-interest procedures in
place. They need to confirm with us by May 2012 that they have
those [...] we will be crawling all over them." However,
she acknowledged that "there is more work for us to do to
get to the detail of this".
Ofqual needs to be satisfied
that Pearson has sufficient firewalls in place to ensure that
its publishing and examining activities are separate, including
syllabus development, and to say so publicly.
BRANDING AND MARKETING OF ENDORSED
158. Exam boards and publishers supplied us with
a sample of endorsed textbooks, as well as further examples of
textbook covers. We supplemented this with a further sample of
textbook covers drawn from our own research. We are concerned
that describing a book as "all you need for your course"
or saying that a textbook ensures students study topics "to
the appropriate level of depth required by the specification"
and helps students "to obtain the best grade they can"
may encourage a narrow approach to teaching and learning.
 We saw
examples of all these practices and they serve to reinforce the
point made to us by the Wellcome Trust that "textbooks have
increasingly become 'examination guides' instead of providing
broad and deep knowledge. The endorsement of textbooks by awarding
bodies exacerbates this problem by promoting teaching to the test".
serious misgivings about the language used to market some endorsed
textbooks and would urge exam boards and publishers to move away
from marketing textbooks in this way.
159. We were shown and also found examples of very
similar branding of Edexcel syllabuses and Edexcel Own
textbooks published by Pearson, with the same logos and cover
designs. Competitors in the publishing industry suggested that
this gives the impression of "official" resources.
Pearson told us that it works "very hard to ensure a choice
of books for teachers", through endorsing textbooks from
Kate Harris of OUP also suggested to us that Pearson is not even-handed
in the presentation of its own and other endorsed resources on
the Edexcel website.
We found that the links to resources from the GCSE and A level
qualification pages lead to Edexcel Own resources only.
We were able to locate information about endorsed resources from
other publishers using a different route, but not from
the qualification pages where teachers will tend to look to find
information about the syllabus they are using.
We welcome Pearson's statement
that it is moving away from a shared design between Edexcel syllabus
materials and Pearson textbooks, as we agree that this can unhelpfully
overstate the link between the two. Pearson should give even-handed
treatment to Edexcel Own and endorsed resources
from other publishers on the Edexcel website.
QUALITY OF ENDORSED TEXTBOOKS AND
THEIR IMPACT ON TEACHING AND LEARNING
160. Many submissions suggested that the quality
of endorsed textbooks is variable and that they lead to a narrowing
of teaching and learning by focusing on the exam syllabus. One
examiner told us "as general texts these books are woeful:
as guides to passing the exam they are very useful".
Headteacher Martin Collier (himself a textbook author) observed
that textbooks "are rushed into production and can be of
indifferent quality," while university lecturer Dr Tony Gardner
stated that endorsed textbooks "give students little incentive
or opportunity to engage with broader and richer material, and
fail to foster an appreciation of the subject's subtleties".
Examiner authors told us of pressure from publishers to limit
coverage to what is in the syllabus.
161. The issues relating to textbooks have led some,
such as the Wellcome Trust and several mathematics subject associations,
to call for an end to exam board endorsement arrangements, as
recommended in the 2010 Walport report.
School and college leaders also recommended to us a separation
of textbooks from the examining function.
Evidence from examiners (many of whom were practising teachers)
was more mixed, with some arguing that endorsed textbooks are
a useful resource and that endorsement acts as a quality kite-mark.
162. By contrast, Pearson and Cambridge Assessment's
Tim Oates drew attention to international research, which demonstrates
that systems which have radically improved their performance use
high quality resources (often approved textbooks) which are closely
aligned to the curriculum and to assessments. Tim Oates warned
that in the light of this evidence, "it would be a terrible
error, in England, to diminish the linkage between textbooks,
curriculum and assessment without ensuring that the form of the
linkage is optimized".
He acknowledged that "we currently have the wrong sort of
linkage between textbooks and examinations" but concludes
that this "does not mean that there should no link".
In common with other submissions, Tim Oates pointed to School
Mathematics Project (SMP) and Nuffield Science curriculum projects,
which "were predicated on a very close link between learning
materials and examinations", but crucially the linked materials
"did not encourage restrictive teaching". 
ACME told us that the "high quality is due to the books growing
out of a vision of a course which is itself the result of a deeply
considered curriculum and qualifications development programme".
163. Tim Oates suggested that evidence presented
to us highlights "the extent to which narrow instrumentalism
has pervaded the whole education systemtextbooks and exams
have not been immune to this insidious tendency".
Mr Oates believes that the "linkage which we now have between
textbooks and examinations is most likely a symptom of a deeper
structural trend in the system." He argues that "publishers
are highly sensitive to market demands. The narrow 'guide to the
examination' is produced by them because this is precisely what
an accountability-trammelled profession asks for". 
164. We agree with Tim Oates and others
that the criticisms of endorsed textbooks must be seen in the
context of the accountability system and the pressures on teachers
and schools to focus on exam preparation, in order to achieve
the best possible results in exams. Clearly the situation will
vary: some endorsed textbooks will provide enrichment and extension
beyond the related syllabus and confident teachers with secure
subject knowledge will not over-rely on a textbook, endorsed or
otherwise. We believe that exam board endorsement is not necessarily
the major factor driving the production of narrow text books.
165. Overall the evidence suggests that the current
system of exam board endorsed textbooks written by senior examiners
is not leading to high quality textbooks that enhance teaching
and learning. We suspect that this situation results from a complex
interaction between endorsement arrangements, examiner authorship
and competition between the exam boards, laced heavily with pressures
exerted by the accountability systema heady cocktail indeed.
As a member of the Society of Authors put it:
the specification is written, the textbook written
by the examiners meets only the specification, and the teaching
is restricted to the textbook. It is a circle that is difficult
to break and destroys innovation, creativity and good teaching
166. We feel that this circle does need to be broken.
It is vital that schools are provided with a choice of high quality
textbooks, which are not merely "examination guides",
and that the system should work to provide this. Few would disagree
with Tim Oates that "textbooks should help the delivery of
a high quality curriculum." The link to the curriculum is,
we believe, crucial. The examples cited by Tim Oates and some
learned bodies were of textbooks linked to curriculum as well
as assessment. The evidence presented to us suggests that problems
have occurred because endorsed textbooks have been linked too
heavily to assessment, becoming 'examination guides', instead
of extending and enriching young people's curriculum experience:
a classic case of the assessment tail wagging the curriculum dog.
Amanda Spielman, Chair of Ofqual, described the "symbiotic
relationship" between curriculum and assessment.
We would suggest that in the case of endorsed textbooks the relationship
is no longer symbiotic as these textbooks are working to the advantage
of assessment but to the detriment of curriculum.
167. We have considered whether to recommend a restriction
on exam board endorsement of textbooks. We believe, however, that
such action would not solve the problem, as it is related to a
wider issue, namely the pervasive impact of the accountability
system on teaching and learning. Under pressure to achieve results,
teachers will continue to want textbooks closely linked to assessment
in order to prepare their students as effectively as possible
for their exams. Publishers will continue to respond to demand
and produce such textbooks, with or without exam board endorsements.
In order to strengthen the
links between textbooks and the curriculum, as well as assessment,
we recommend that in future A level textbooks be endorsed by the
universities involved in developing a particular syllabus rather
than by the exam board. At GCSE much will depend on the outcomes
of the National Curriculum review and the ensuing reforms to GCSE,
but a possible way forward might involve learned bodies endorsing
textbooks instead of exam boards.
of exam board support
168. Our system of multiple exam boards competing
for market share may have made the issues concerning textbooks
and training more acute. That said, many of the issues would remain,
however the exam system were organised. Pressures from the accountability
system would continue to exert an influence over the type of training
and textbooks that teachers feel they need to prepare their students
to succeed. Decisions would still need to be taken on the role
examiners should play in training and how much they should be
involved in writing textbooks.; and on whether and how exam boards
should endorse textbooks and how such books should be marketed
to schools. We believe that the answer to much of this lies in
robust regulation. It is an area where a stronger Ofqual could
and should make a significant impact.
169. Ofqual announced a focus on training and textbooks
in late 2011 as part of its work on healthy markets. It has acknowledged
that "in the past the market has not been regulated tightly
We agree with Ofqual that the market has not been regulated tightly
enough with regard to training and textbooks and we believe that
this has allowed conflicts of interest to arise. Ofqual's healthy
markets work is welcome, if overdue, as it is clear that many
of the issues raised with us have gone unchecked for some time.
We welcome Ofqual's recent report on exam board seminars and look
forward to its publication of an action plan relating to textbooks
and study aids in September 2012. Proper regulatory control and
scrutiny of these issues will help to increase public confidence
in the exam system.
170. There is an underlying assumption behind much
of the support offered by exam boards to teachers that they have
a role to play in helping schools to improve their performance
and to raise standards. Pearson described in its written evidence
how it helps teachers to "use data to enhance attainment"
through its free ResultsPlus service, thereby "driving systematic
improvements to teaching and learning".
The Welsh exam board, WJEC, has said that its training "is
designed to provide feedback on previous exams and advice to teachers
on best practice, with the aim of raising teaching standards and
allowing all students to achieve their full potential".
We believe that there is a legitimate question about the appropriate
role of exam boards and how much this should extend beyond the
impartial assessment of attainment. We
recommend that Ofqual, as part of its healthy markets work, take
a clear view on the broader question about how much exam boards
should be involved in helping to improve results as well as in
the impartial assessment of attainment.
231 Q460 Back
Ev w83, paragraph 41 and Ev w47 paragraph C8 Back
Awarding Organisation Seminars for Teachers, Ofqual, December
Exam Board Seminars: Final Report, Ofqual, 2012 Back
OCR responds to Ofqual announcement on changes to teacher seminars,
http://www.ocr.org.uk/news/2012 /item_025.aspx Back
AQA responds to Ofqual's announcement on changes to teacher seminars
http://web.aqa.org.uk/media-centre/news-270412.php and Pearson's
response to the Ofqual report on exam board seminars http://www.edexcel.com/Aboutus/press-room/press-releases/Pages/ViewItem.aspx?filter=2582# Back
Exam Board Seminars: Final Report, Ofqual, 2012 Back
Q230 Mark Dawe Back
Exam Board Seminars: Final Report, Ofqual, 2012 Back
Exam Boards Seminars: Final Report, Ofqual, 2012 Back
See for example, "Head attacks 'aggressive commercialisation'
of exams", Daily Telegraph, 9 January 2012 Back
Letter from Nick Gibb and John Hayes to Glenys Stacey, 29 November
Ev 122 Back
Ev 113 and Ev 133 Back
Ev 118 Back
Ev 118, paragraph 8.4 Back
Ev w3, see also Ev 184 and Ev w35 Roger Porkess Back
Questionnaire completed by examiner Back
Mick Waters, quoted in "System of exam boards 'corrupt and
diseased'", The Independent, 17 September 2010 Back
Ev w61 Back
Ev 126 Back
See Ev 119 Back
Q481 Jacob Pienaar and Q554 Rod Bristow Back
Q483 Kate Harris Back
GCSE Geography, Edexcel B, OUP, Edexcel Business for GCSE Building
a Business, Hodder Education and Edexcel Government and Politics
for A2 Ideologies, Hodder Education Back
Ev 132 Back
Ev 188 and Q465 Kate Harris Back
Ev 169 Back
Supplementary evidence submitted by OUP [not printed] Back
For example, GCSE Business, http://www.edexcel.com/quals/gcse/gcse09/Business/Business/Pages/default.aspx,or
A level Geography, http://www.edexcel.com/quals/gce/gce08/geography/Pages/default.aspx
accessed on 16 May 2012 Back
Questionnaire completed by examiner Back
Ev 112, paragraph 8 and Ev w47, paragraph C2 Back
Seminar held with examiners on 14 December 2011, see annex 1 Back
See Ev 128, Ev w78, Ev w18, Ev w61, Ev w58, Ev w15 and Science
and Mathematics Secondary Education for the 21st Century,
Science and Learning Expert Group, 2010 Back
Q101 and Q102, Teresa Kelly, Robert Pritchard and David Burton Back
Ev 148 Back
See also Ev w20, Ev w35, Ev w61, Ev w78 Back
Ev w83, paragraph 40 Back
Ev 149 Back
Ev 150 Back
See Ev w8, Ev 184, Warwick Mansell, Education By Numbers, Politico's,
Ev 185 Back
Ev 168 Back
Ev 120 Back