Exam boards face fines for test paper errors

Exam boards face fines for test paper errors

BBC |May 4, 2012

By Judith Burns Education reporter, BBC News
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Exam boards face multi-million pound fines for mistakes in test papers under new powers granted to the exams watchdog Ofqual.

Just days before the exam season gets under way, the regulator has given details of new sanctions – including fines of up to 10% of annual turnover.

The regulator can also order exam papers to be rewritten or ban boards from offering certain qualifications.

Fiona Pethick of Ofqual promised to “act firmly and robustly”.

The biggest exam boards have turnovers of up to £300m, so fines of 10% would be substantial.

The government says the money will go to the public purse.

Ms Pethick, Ofqual’s director of regulation said: “We want awarding organisations to provide high-quality qualifications and good levels of service.

“Our additional powers, including the power to fine, mean that when things go wrong, we have more ways in which we can sanction an awarding organisation.

“With exams starting shortly, this is a timely announcement for us as we now have our new powers in place should there be any problems during this important period.”

‘Unanswerable questions’

The move follows a series of unanswerable questions and printing errors in last summer’s A-level and GCSE exam papers, sat by 140,000 students in England Wales and Northern Ireland.

After about a dozen mistakes were found in national test papers, the government promised to have new regulatory powers, including a system of fines, ready for this summer’s exams.

Last summer’s mistakes included multiple-choice questions where all the answers were wrong, and questions which were impossible to answer because wrong information had been given.

The subjects affected were geography, maths, chemistry, biology, business studies and Latin.

Pupils vented their anger on social networking sites, with some calling for the exams to be re-staged.

At the time the exam boards apologised for the mistakes and said they were taking measures to ensure pupils would not be advantaged or disadvantaged by them.

Truancy fines should be deducted from child benefit, says behaviour adviser

Truancy fines should be deducted from child benefit, says behaviour adviser

The Guardian World News |by Jeevan Vasagar

Truancy

The government’s adviser on behaviour wants fines for truancy to rise to £60. Photograph: Bubbles Photolibrary /Alamy

Headteachers should be able to impose increased fines on parents whose children miss school without a valid reason and the money will be docked automatically from child benefit if they fail to pay, a government adviser has said.

Proposals published on Monday by the government’s expert adviser on behaviour, Charlie Taylor, would allow schools to impose fines of £60 for truancy, rising to£120 if they are not paid within 28 days.

The money would be recovered automatically from child benefit if parents failed to pay within that time. Parents who do not receive child benefit and fail to pay fines would have the money recovered through county courts.

Currently, parents of children who play truant face a fine of£50, rising to £100 if unpaid after 28 days.

Taylor’s review of truancy will call for a crackdown on term-time holiday, with absence only allowed in “exceptional circumstances”. In the past school year, term-time holiday was the reason for 9.5% of absences from school, up from 9.3% the previous year.

The education watchdog, Ofsted, will also be urged to set timed targets for improving attendance in schools where there are high rates of truancy.

Taylor is due to say: “We know that some parents simply allow their children to miss lessons and then refuse to pay the fine. It means the penalty has no effect and children continue to lose vital days of education they can never recover.

“Recouping the fines through child benefit … will strengthen and simplify the system. It would give headteachers the backing they need in getting parents to play their part.”

A report on the effectiveness of fines, commissioned by the last government, found that 79% of local authorities said penalty notices were “very successful” or “fairly successful” in improving school attendance, but councils felt court action was often a long-winded process that achieved little.

In 2010, out of 9,147 parents taken to court and found guilty over their children’s truancy, only 6,591 received a fine or a more serious sanction. The average fine imposed by the court was£165.

Fines for school absence were introduced by the Labour government in 2004 and the levels of the fines have not been revised since then.

Taylor, the headteacher of a special school in west London, is currently on secondment as an expert adviser on behaviour to the government, which is expected to adopt his recommendations.

His review calls on all primary schools to analyse their data on attendance to quickly identify children who are developing a pattern of absence.

He will say: “The earlier schools address poor attendance patterns, the less likely it is that they will become a long-term issue. The best primary schools realise this and take a rigorous approach to poor attendance from the very start of school life.”

Education secretary Michael Gove announced the review of sanctions for truancy in a speech made after the riots last year. Gove said policing of the existing sanctions was “weak”.

“When fines are imposed, they are often reduced to take account of an adult’s expenditure on satellite TV, alcohol and cigarettes. And many appear to shrug off fines and avoid existing sanctions, refusing to take responsibility for their actions,” he said.

More than 32,600 penalty notices for school absence were issued to parents last year, and more than 127,000 have been issued since their introduction in 2004. However, about half of all notices have gone unpaid or been withdrawn; schools or local authorities have to withdraw the penalty notice if it is unpaid after 42 days. The only further option is to prosecute parents.

Michael Gove’s latest odd idea is a plan to fight truancy

Michael Gove’s latest odd idea is a plan to fight truancy

The Guardian World News

Empty school desks

Children can be tempted to play truant at any stage of their school career. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

I don’t like to keep on about Gove, but he does pop up with odd ideas. Now it’s fines for truancy to be taken from child benefit, as advised by his behaviour tzar, Charlie Taylor. Ordinary fines are hopeless, suggests Govey, because “they’re often reduced to account for an adult’s expenditure on satellite TV, alcohol and cigarettes”.

Here he goes again, heaping crap on the poor, because who else fritters their money on such things? And if you toss in the word“benefits” it’s pretty clear who’s to blame for all this truanting, in the Gove eyes. All right, it’s child benefit, which most people will still be getting next year, once 500,000 workers have completed their extra self-assessment forms, and then had their benefits paid, then clawed back, and we all know whether we’ll have any benefit left to have the fines subtracted from, but hey, it’s only £120 – same as two parking fines, and won’t really bother anyone much, except the really hard-up, which is fair enough, because we can tell from the beer and cigarettes that they’re the ones not bothering to get their children to school.

It’s important to clamp down on truanting in primary schools, say the Gove gang, because little truanters grow up into hardened truanters, who are even more difficult to cure. But Fielding and I both had daughters who blossomed into skilled truanters at secondary school, without a single day’s primary practice. Mr and Mrs Fielding attended one parents’ evening and were shown a register full of noughts. Shocking. They hadn’t had a clue, and they don’t even have satellite TV or smoke. And where had my daughter been? I escorted her to the school gate repeatedly, but there’s always a back entrance, and why sit in class when there’s a sunny park round the corner? Chums, parent-free houses, daytime films v bullies, exams, slipping behind? No contest.

Stop your child truanting? Easier said than done, and we were the lucky ones.

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