Exam boards to be fined for exam errors

Exam boards are to be fined over future mistakes in GCSE and A-level papers, it was revealed today.









It comes after a series of blunders in this summer's exams which affected tens of thousands of teenagers.



Under the move, England's exams watchdog, Ofqual, will be given new powers to impose financial penalties on boards that make mistakes.



In a letter, Schools Minister Nick Gibb said that following the "significant" errors seen this summer, the Government had considered whether Ofqual had sufficient powers to deal with such problems, and concluded that it did not.



Other regulators have the power to issue fines, the letter to awarding bodies says, but Ofqual does not.



Currently, Ofqual's strongest sanction is to withdraw recognition of an exam board, or withdraw its right to offer a particular qualification.



"Financial penalties would provide an effective and flexible sanction for the regulation of the qualifications system," Mr Gibb wrote.



He added that it is the Government's intention to give Ofqual a power to fine similar to that held by other watchdogs.



A board could face a maximum financial penalty of 10% of its turnover, with the size of any fine imposed in proportion to the scale and seriousness of the error.



The money will go to the public purse.



The new powers are expected to be in place for next summer's exams, following a consultation and new legislation.



It has been suggested that around 100,000 students were affected by around 12 blunders in GCSE, AS and A-level papers set by five exam boards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.



The mistakes ranged from wrong answers in a multiple choice paper, to impossible questions and printing errors.



Ofqual is currently conducting a joint inquiry into the mistakes with the exams regulators in Wales and Northern Ireland.



In the summer, Ofqual chief executive Glenys Stacey condemned the mistakes as "unacceptable".



The errors included:



:: A multiple choice question featuring four wrong answers in an Edexcel AS-level biology paper sat by 17,000 students



:: Students sitting an AQA AS-level business paper being presented with a question, worth a maximum of three marks, that did not include the information needed to come up with an answer



:: A maths AS-level paper, set by the OCR exam board and taken by 6,790 pupils, also containing an unanswerable question. The question, which was worth eight marks, 11% of the paper, was impossible to solve as it was incomplete.



An Ofqual spokesman said: "We welcome the announcement that, subject to the will of Parliament, Ofqual is to be given powers to fine awarding organisations in circumstances where they fail to meet the standards required of them.



"We will ensure that these powers are used proportionately and appropriately, and will carry out a consultation into when and how the powers to fine will be used."



Mr Gibb said: "It is unacceptably poor practice for even one paper to contain an error. But this summer there were numerous errors.



"We want to give Ofqual tougher powers so it has a range of sanctions at its disposal and can take action against exam boards who fall short of the high standards students and parents expect. Giving Ofqual the power to fine would provide a powerful incentive to awarding organisations to comply with their regulatory obligations and improve standards.



"It would act as a deterrent and send a clear signal to students and the wider public that the exam boards will face consequences where they get things wrong."





Toni Pearce, National Union of Students Vice-President (Further Education) said: "We're delighted to see that the Department for Education have listened to our calls to grant greater powers to Ofqual. We look forward as well to continuing to work with Ofqual's inquiry into the spate of errors that occurred in exam papers earlier this year.



"Whilst it is inevitable that there will be the occasional error, the level of errors that young people experienced in exams in the last year was truly unacceptable and Ofqual must be willing to exercise its new powers if exam boards fail to raise their game in the future."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Imperial College London: Safety Training Administrator

£25,880 – £28,610 per annum: Imperial College London: Imperial College London ...

University College London: Client Platform Support Officer

£26,976 - £31,614 per annum: University College London: UCL Information Servic...

Guru Careers: Instructional Designer / e-Learning Designer

£30 - 32k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking an Instructional / e-Learning De...

Recruitment Genius: Schools Education & Careers Executive

£30500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Schools Education & Careers Executive ...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor