One exam board 'good for publishers and bookshops'

One exam board 'good for publishers and bookshops'

The prospect of one exam board for all examinations in England could improve textbooks and be positive for high street booksellers, two educational publishers have said.

Education minister Nick Gibb told the Mail on Sunday that the government is considering scrapping exam boards AQA, OCR, Pearson-owned Edexcel, and WJEC – and having government-produced papers instead.

Following the news academic publishing consultant Graham Taylor warned the move could intensify competition between publishers for market share and reduce the number and range of textbooks published.

 However, two educational publishers have argued on the contrary that a single exam body could be beneficial for business.

Colin Hughes, managing director of Collins Learning, said: “It’s by no means clear to me that a one exam, one board system would be bad news for us – possibly quite the contrary.  The same number of students would need the same amount of books, so there’s no reason to assume that total sales would fall.  And textbooks might well improve because publishers would no longer have to dilute their investment making adjustments for different boards. Essentially it would level the playing field, which might free up publishers to compete straightforwardly on quality – and that would surely be good news for teachers and learners.”  

Lis Tribe, m.d of Hodder Education, said the move was also likely to benefit high street booksellers and smaller educational publishers.

“I do not think it would be the end of the world," she said. "Now there are five big educational publishers and some very small ones. If there was one board, it might level the playing field and allow smaller publishers to compete better. With three to four boards it is complicated, you need to know which board you are publishing for -smaller publishers can’t afford to publish for all of them.” She added: “Secondly, I think it would be good news for high street booksellers because it would be easier for them to stock the correct titles. At the moment, Amazon has an advantage because, for example, Waterstones has no idea which schools in its area use which exam boards when it comes to stocking decisions. This way they would.”

Scrapping exam boards is just one modernisation in education the government is considering.