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Edexcel

I raised a Spock-like eyebrow the other day when I heard an interview on the Today programme with Rod Bristow, president of Pearson UK, the very profitable parent company behind the Edexcel examinations board. He was commenting on the issue of grade inflation and testing in general. I was a little surprised because we don't normally hear exam boards commenting on educational issues and I wondered why he had chosen to speak out, or why he had been given a platform. You would usually expect Ofqual to be speaking on these issues, as they have done recently.

Now, exam boards set and mark exams. That's their job and I'm not sure they should be commenting on issues of educational policy. But I also wonder why a prosperous multinational publishing organisation is running exams at all. Exam fees from schools come in the main from public funds which have been filtered through to state schools. To me it feels a tad askew, as Jerry Seinfeld might have put it, for tax-payers money to then be directed into the funds of a private company and its shareholders. The other main exam boards are not "for profit" companies and this feels better to me.

Should examining the nation's children be a profitable business? Even in the new post-Blairite world where public service gets confused with private profit? I understand that one argument for letting in Pearson is that their investment can lead to innovation in the exam setting and marking field, but I have to say that Edexcel are not particularly noted for their reliability or even the quality of yheir assessment. In MFL, at A-level, they do not even include any assessment of listening, whihch is frankly bizarre.

So, in sum, when choosing an exam board, I would think twice before subsidising Pearson with public money and I would rather they kept any views they might hold on policy to themselves.

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