Exams watchdog questions quality of textbooks

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Qualification textbooks are too focused on exam preparation at the expense of subject content, Ofqual has said. The exams watchdog has publishing its initial findings after investigating potential conflicts of interests between awarding bodies and the tex

The exams watchdog has publishing its initial findings after investigating potential conflicts of interests between awarding bodies and the textbooks that they produce or endorse.

The study, Textbooks: Risks and opportunities, highlights a “lack of agreement” about what a good textbook looks like and reports “evidence supporting concerns about the quality of learning resources generally”.

It states: “In particular, a rather formulaic approach, influenced by current endorsement processes, is resulting in textbooks that can be over-focused on exam preparation at the cost of subject content and sign-posting to wider and more in-depth reading.”

Figures show that in 2010/11, schools spent around £26,000 on textbooks and the watchdog has said it will now carry out further work to review awarding organisations’ endorsement processes and will report back on how these might be adapted to improve the quality of resources.

Elsewhere, Ofqual also raises concerns over the “predominant” practice of senior examiners writing textbooks.

Exam boards have contractual arrangements so that examiners cannot disclose their links to exam boards when authoring books and the report acknowledges that breaches in confidentiality are rare.

However, it adds: “In a number of our recent complaints about textbooks and from reviewing more informal evidence such as blogs and student sites, the link between these roles is clearly known and is perceived to be a major conflict of interest.

“The link between examiners and textbook authoring is perceived as a significant conflict of interest and is damaging confidence in the sector.”

Again, Ofqual is to carry out a wider review and will report on what role examiners should have in writing textbooks while they are employed as examiners.

For details, visit www.ofqual.gov.uk/news/review-into-exam-textbooks-published


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