AQA penalised £1m for letting markers check own work

England's biggest GCSE and A-level exam board made same error over three years, affecting more than 50,000 cases

Catherine Lough

Exam board AQA must pay out £1m in fines and compensation

Englands's largest school exam board has been reprimanded by the regulator over three separate mistakes, it was revealed today.

And exams regulator, Ofqual, said AQA would have to pay more than £1 million in fines and compensation for one of the errors relating to marking reviews, which it made in three consecutive years.

Ofqual has announced it will impose a fine of £350,000 on AQA because of the exam board’s reviews of marking and moderation in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

AQA will also have to pay affected centres the sum of £735,570 in compensation through credit notes, as well as reasonable costs to the regulator, meaning the exam board will pay more than £1m in total for the repeatedly breaking the same rule.

Related: Exam board accused of ‘betraying’ GCSE English pupils

News: Ofqual threatens more exam board naming and shaming

Quick read: OCR forced to pay £187K for GCSE exam blunder

The fines relate to marking reviews of GCSE and A-level papers during 2016-18, when according to Ofqual:  “AQA failed to ensure that all of its reviews of marking and moderation in respect of GCE and GCSE qualifications were carried out in their entirety by a person who had not been involved in the original marking.” 

AQA hit by Ofqual fine

The problem affected an estimated 53,166 reviews of marking and moderation over the three-year period, representing around 7 per cent of reviews carried out by AQA each year.

In some cases, the exam board also did not ensure the marking and moderation review was “carried out by someone who had no personal interest in the outcome of the review".

Ofqual noted that there was no evidence that these failings meant candidates received the wrong outcomes but described these failures as “serious breaches” affecting the integrity of the marking system.

In 3,634 cases across the three years, the same examiner who had marked a script in its entirety then reviewed the marking for a second time through the exam board’s electronic marking system.

Mark Bedlow, AQA’s interim chief executive, said: “I want to reassure everyone that this past technical issue – which we’ve fixed now – didn’t affect the outcome of anyone’s review. Where necessary, grades were still changed.

 “Reviews of marking are only carried out by our best, most experienced examiners who are very unlikely to have made mistakes in their original marking – and, in the vast majority of cases, we’re talking about one isolated, anonymised answer from a paper being reviewed by the senior examiner who originally marked it.

 “But reviews should always be carried out by a fresh pair of eyes and we’re sorry that, for a small proportion in the past, this wasn’t the case. We’ve made sure we got it right this summer, just as we did after last year’s November exams.”

In a separate incident, AQA was fined £50,000 over a breach of the rules relating to the marking of its A-level French paper in 2018.  Ofqual has also publicly reprimanded the board over its May 2018 GCSE English literature paper, which repeated a question previously used in a specimen paper.


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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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