Examiners say sorry over 'tip-offs'

 

Two senior examiners apologised today after appearing to tip off
teachers about how they could secure top grades for GCSE students.

Paul Evans, of the WJEC board, and Steph Warren, of Edexcel, said they regretted "inappropriate" comments made to undercover reporters from the Daily Telegraph.

But they insisted they had never revealed details of questions due to be asked in forthcoming exams.

Another examiner caught up in the sting, Paul Barnes of WJEC, said he had been "misrepresented" by the newspaper and denied breaking any rules. All three have been suspended while investigations take place.

The developments came as the Commons Education Committee took evidence following the expose last week.

The MPs heard that Edexcel was "deeply concerned" about the revelations, and "systems and processes" were being strengthened. But representatives from AQA and OCR defended their existing safeguards. WJEC said it was satisfied no exams had been compromised.

Chief examiners Mr Evans and Mr Barnes were filmed taking a seminar for the WJEC GCSE history course last month.

Mr Evans reportedly spoke about the "cycle" of questions used by the board. "We're cheating, we're telling you the cycle," he said.

When someone pointed out this information was not in the course specification, Mr Evans is said to have replied: "No, because we're not allowed to tell you."

A teacher asked whether they had understood correctly that there would be no question on Iraq or Iran next year. Mr Barnes said: "Off the record, yes."

Speaking to the cross-party group of MPs this morning, Mr Evans said the intention of the seminar had been to "inform teachers about the course, take them through the lessons learned from the results of examinations in the past, with a view to assisting their teaching in teaching their pupils for future exams".

He insisted he had merely been indicating that information about compulsory questions was given in the teaching guide, and not in the specification.

"My reference to the word cheating was an inappropriate term to use," he said.

"At no stage during the seminar did I reveal any specific questions that were to be asked in the 2012 exam, or in any subsequent exam.

"Nor did I breach any confidence regarding the examination process itself."

Mr Barnes told the committee that his "off-the-record" comment was a "throwaway figure of speech".

"As far as I am concerned there has been no breach of my duties in terms of (as) an examiner," he said.

"As a member of the WJEC I have always tried to uphold the very high standards of the exam board."

He added: "I really, truly believe that I have been misrepresented by the Daily Telegraph."

An undercover journalist posing as a teacher who was considering using Edexcel's GCSE geography tests approached Miss Warren at another seminar.

She reportedly told them that "you don't have to teach a lot" and that there was a "lot less" for pupils to learn than with rival courses.

Miss Warren added that she did not know "how we (Edexcel) got it through" the official regulation system for standards in GCSEs and A-levels.

Giving evidence today, she claimed she did "not even recall the conversation".

"I had had a really exhausting day of training, one of the most difficult training days of teachers that I have ever done in my career," she said.

"I do regret the comments I made which created the impression that the content of the specification is less and therefore the specification is easier than other geography GCSEs.

"I did not say that the specification was easier."

She went on: "My comments were made in the heat of the moment after a long training session. I do not think that the specification has less content.

"I do not know why I made the comments. I have not read the other awarding bodies' specifications or even Edexcel's other geography specifications.

"So I have no basis on which to compare them. It was an inappropriate comment that I deeply regret making. I am only human and we all make mistakes."

Rod Bristow, president of Pearson UK - which owns Edexcel - said the sting had "exposed that the things we have been relying on so far are probably insufficient".

Seminars would now be routinely filmed and published, he indicated.

"I think the events that we have seen mean that we do need to strengthen the systems and processes that we have," Mr Bristow added.

AQA chief executive Andrew Hall said such seminars - which cost up to £230 to attend - were run at a loss.

"We have been aware from time to time that the odd examiner was sometimes acting in an inappropriate way. We have a malpractice team and we investigate it," he said.

"But widespread? No."

Mark Dawe, chief executive of OCR, accepted there was an "enormous amount of pressure on the system".

"But we believe we have procedures in place to protect the integrity of our exams," he added.

He said the UK had one of the most transparent exam systems in the world.

Gareth Pierce, chief executive of WJEC, insisted the revelations had not affected the integrity of any of their GCSE exam papers.

"We are absolutely confident there has been no compromise at all," he added.

Glenys Stacey, head of regulator Ofqual, said she had been "surprised" by the examiners' comments.

"I was aware of concerns about what happens in seminars," she said. "I have been sufficiently concerned about what I have heard to declare it as a priority for me and did so about a month ago.

"But I was surprised at the exact nature of what I saw," she added.

A review had been launched to make sure there was not "any sniff" of concern that exam papers had been compromised, she added.

She also suggested that whistleblowers in the education sector should be given more protection.

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
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree have recently been awa...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

WORLDbytes: Two-Day Intensive Camera training and Shoot: Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th March

expenses on shoots: WORLDbytes: Volunteering with a media based charity,for a ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 4 Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: A school in Tameside is currently l...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn