Examinations board fails the bright schoolchildren test

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The Independent Online

When two alert teenagers know the answer to a maths exam better than one of the top exam boards, you know the system is in trouble.

Ministers are to review the contracts of the EDexcel exam board, one of the top three in the country, after two students taking their AS-level maths exam complained it was impossible to answer one of the questions because of an error.

Estelle Morris, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, was said to be "absolutely seething'' over their complaint. A senior aide said: "We expect pupils to raise standards year-on-year and it simply is not good enough if the question is not right.''

Executives from EDexcel, which was at the centre of controversy over delayed exam results last summer, will be called in to give an explanation to Ms Morris.

Senior civil servants said they would consider reviewing the contracts of the board. One said: "This is not the first time they have been brought to our attention.''

The error was brought to light by Amit Bharath and Adam Sissman, both 17, from Allerton High School in Leeds. They said the mistake could have affected pupils taking the exam nationwide. Amit, who is hoping to study medicine, said the error so upset his concentration that he struggled to finish the rest of the paper which counted for 33 per cent of his final mark.

It revolved around two diagrams, one supplied for the question paper and one for the answer booklet. According to the pupils, the answer booklet contained the wrong diagram, causing them to miscalculate the answer.

The headteacher of another school, David Dunn, of Yarm School, Stockton-on-Tees, said the exam had to be suspended in his school after there were complaints about the paper.

Last summer the chief executive of EDexcel, Christina Townsend, resigned after the company was named as one of three boards reported by headteachers for failing to meet the deadline for re-marking contested exam scripts.

No one from EDexcel was available to comment.