Inquiry call as sixth-formers fall foul of latest exam error

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The Independent Online

An exam for sixth-formers has had to be halted because of a mistake in a question, the latest in a series of errors in school exam papers.

College principals called for an inquiry after the Government's exams watchdog, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), admitted responsibility for the fault in the Key Skills Level 3 communications paper, which resulted in three pictures being labelled incorrectly.

The exam board Edexcel, which has been threatened with losing its contract after a series of blunders, was accused yesterday of making another error after exam papers were sent out with pages in the wrong order.

The complaints came days after the Government announced plans to extend the powers of the QCA, and after its chairman, Sir William Stubbs, predicted that this summer there would be no repeat of last summer's problems.

Thomas Rotherham College in Rotherham, south Yorkshire, said it had been forced to stop the A-level standard key skills exam while it sought advice from the QCA.

The faulty labelling involved a question about hunting, where candidates had to study pictures from the League Against Cruel Sports and the Countryside Alliance.

The QCA said the pictures had not been numbered correctly, but that how they related to the question should have been obvious to those taking the exam.

About 37,000 sixth-formers took the test this week. The faulty question was worth about 5 per cent of the overall exam mark.

Beverly Evans, the QCA's chief officer, apologised for the authority's mistake, but said no student would lose out. She said: "This could have been down to a proofing error or data corruption. There are a number of checks and balances in place at both ends and we are immediately strengthening these.

"However, we make no excuses and this error should not have happened, but we have made sure no student will suffer as a result."

Ms Evans added: "Chief examiners have been immediately alerted and it is their job to make a fair decision about the question, looking over the paper as a whole.

"However, what is important is to swiftly put things right and to ensure that no student is disadvantaged."