Pupils could sue over errors in exam questions

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The Independent Online

The prospect of pupils suing exam boards over blunders in this year's GCSE and A-level papers emerged yesterday as three more serious howlers came to light.

A head teachers' leader warned the latest in a string of mistakes had seriously undermined public confidence in the examination system.

Parents' leaders called for "heavy" fines to be levied on exam boards with the worst offenders being stripped of their authority to set exams. Ofqual, the exams regulator, warned it would take regulatory action if necessary – which could include removing exam recognition from an offending board.

The errors could also bring forward a major review of exams planned by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, who wants to see questions at A-level set by universities in future rather than exam boards.

Examiners warned there were likely to be further repercussions on result days with so much pressure on students to secure university places. One of these could be pupils suing if they just miss out on a university place.

In the first mistake that came to light yesterday, a GCSE maths paper erroneously included questions originally answered by pupils sitting the same examination in March. Britain's biggest exam board, the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, immediately apologised for the error.

The other errors that came to light came in a GCSE Latin paper and a physics A-level exam – both set by the Oxford and Cambridge and Royal Society of Arts board. The Latin paper contained incorrect names of writers and characters while the physics paper included a measurement given in both centimetres and metres when it should have been only in metres.

An OCR spokesman said: "We deeply regret these errors. It is not acceptable and, if we find that someone has not done their job, they will lose their job."