Scandal-hit exam board’s top marks for HR strategy

Edexcel, the exam board branded as ‘sloppy’ by former education secretary
Estelle Morris, has transformed its examination service and financial
performance through effective people management.

The company has gone from a £7m loss last year to a profit of £2m and
implemented measures to reduce mistakes, improve customer services and resolve
management and staff shortages.

Edexcel was pilloried in 2001 for setting a maths exam that couldn’t be answered,
late delivery of exam papers and alleged mistakes in its gradings.

Tim Williams, HR director at Edexcel told Personnel Today the company had
begun to improve its service before the scandals, and subsequent events proved
the education system had to accept some blame.

"In 2001, demand trebled in terms of transactions and we have seen the
other [examination] boards embroiled in more scandal last summer. In the last
three exam series we’ve delivered the best results," he claimed.

Immediately after the troubles in 2001, Edexcel launched the Lessons Learned
Initiative, which encouraged staff to come together in informal groups and say
where things were going wrong. A manager was assigned to each group and more
than 1,000 problems were identified and cleared-up.

Williams wanted to create a zero tolerance environment to eliminate mistakes
so proof reading was trebled and more quality control was introduced.

The criteria for becoming an exam marker was changed to allow more staff
into the system and they were backed up with "more money, more support and
better training", said Williams.

Edexcel also changed its recruitment policy and introduced a programme of
management development.

By Ross Wigham

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