Exam board sacks four officials after series of blunders

OCR exam board admits mistakes led to more than 100 students being given the wrong grades

Four exam board officials have been sacked and 78 reprimanded after a series of blunders in marking last year's GCSEs and A-levels, it was disclosed yesterday.

The Oxford Cambridge Royal Society of Arts (OCR) exam board admitted the mistakes led to more than 100 students being given the wrong grades.

In some cases, it could have meant they were unable to take up provisionally offered university places.

Mark Dawe, the board's chief executive, was forced to apologise last night. He said: "Mistakes were made by examiners in the transcribing and totalling of marks.

"These are unacceptable and OCR apologises to students, schools and parents that our high standards for quality and integrity were not met by some individuals during routine processes."

The blunders came to light at the end of an error-strewn year for the country's exam boards.

Last summer errors in 12 papers made it impossible for some students to answer questions – leading Ofqual, the exam regulator, to institute a new system of fines which could run into millions of pounds for exam boards.

In addition, exam boards were accused of passing tips to teachers about questions likely to come up in exams as a result of what MPs on the influential Commons Education Select Committee described as a "race to the bottom" to get schools to sign up with boards.

The latest revelations show that 114 A-level, AS-level and HCSE students were awarded the wrong grades – five candidates' qualifications were improved by two grades. A further 134 candidates had grades changed in modules for exam courses they will complete this summer.

The majority of A-level changes were for PE, while the majority of GCSE changes were for Religious Studies.

Yesterday's revelations come as the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is considering radical changes to the exam board structure which could result in a single board being responsible for every subject. Another alternative is to have one national exam board for all subjects.

Meanwhile, thousands of students who achieve top GCSE grades in maths are being put off studying the subject at A-level, according to a report out yesterday. More must be done to encourage teenagers to continue studying the subject after they are 16, said the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education.

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