For a long time I have been arguing in favour of having just one exam board for history-in fact for all subjects. This years’s results for history again show that some boards seem harder than others with AQA seeming to be the ‘hardest’ this year. Here we go again. The bane of my life when trying to improve the quality of history learning in Hampshire schools for 18 years was always the short interview with the headteacher after a set of poor GCSE results. They were not interested in improving the department’s teaching. The first question they always asked was: Is there an exam board where it is easier to get better marks? This outraged me and led to some awkward conversations. I would explain that I had at my fingertips a rank of order of which exam boards and papers were easier. I would even let them have it. Welsh board SHP was always easiest:OCR Modern World hardest. But I would always dissuade them from jumping ship without first trying to improve their performance with the existing board. As you can imagine, this didn’t go down well. Some listened and results improved. Others changed immediately and results massively improved without an improvement in the teaching. This incensed me and struck me as being immoral too. So I started campaigning for a single exam board. My reasons are, I think, compelling:
a. teachers waste too much time trying to back the right horse. Why should they have to?
b. exam boards tout for custom, often trying to cater for what teachers want ( easier exams!) when they should be spending more time improving papers and markschemes.
c. competition leads to dilution of quality. Having national experts working for one national board would mean time was invested in quality papers rather than unnecessary, impossible and expensive quality assurance
d. what teachers want is variety of options within an exam board. They don’t need 3 or 4 boards to choose from.
So, I was delighted to read a blog from Alex Ford, supported immediately by Christine Counsell, in which they , for the first time, questioned the need for multiple boards. It is reassuring to know that you are no longer a lone voice in the wilderness.