Confidence in Standards – now possible

18 November 2009

Cambridge Assessment is proud to have helped Members of Parliament in both Lords and Commons to improve the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill such that the new regulator, Ofqual, is enabled to act as a genuinely independent standards-orientated regulator.

Engaging with a range of politicians of all political parties in both Houses of Parliament, the Group was supported in its efforts by a range of educational stakeholders including the Association of School & College Leaders, the Association of Teachers & Lecturers, the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Head Teachers.

Creating powerful arguments, using Group expertise together with Cambridge International Examinations and OCR’s practical experience of the current regulator, the Group sought to persuade lawmakers directly and through written briefings.

One particular concern was clause 138 (later 140) that enabled the Secretary of State to change qualifications if he or she felt they were ‘wrong’. A powerful coalition of Peers was created from the independent crossbenchers, Liberal Democrats and backbench Conservatives, to carry the case to Ministers. As a result, the clause was replaced by four clauses, limiting both the range and timing of the Secretary of State’s power.

Another concern was met by the Government ensuring that Ofqual will now have to produce an Annual Report that measures itself against the Act’s objectives – far better than the current regulator’s reports which contain little reference to objectives.

Certain assurances were given by Ministers in both chambers of Parliament on a range of other issues. These statements will also help to ensure Ofqual remains independent of those it regulates, can act as a bulwark against excessive political interference, will focus on standards issues and that its first priority will be, like ours, the student.

The Group remains committed to the building of a qualifications system that offers choice, diversity and rigour and will support Ofqual when its decisions are evidence-based, well-grounded and contribute to the creation of such a system.

Of course, the new regulator will formally only come into being at the start of the fiscal year on 1st April 2010. Until then it remains a QCA division operating under previous Acts of Parliament, not this one.