Computing GCSE students will have to re-take key assessments under plans being considered by one of the country's leading exam boards amid fears of cheating.
OCR, part of Cambridge Assessment, posted a letter on its website over the weekend telling schools that it had been forced to withdraw parts of the computing controlled assessment due to concerns that answers were appearing on websites.
But the letter was removed from the site this morning, and a spokesperson for the organisation has told TES that it was posted by mistake and a final decision is yet to be made.
“A notice was posted to the OCR website on Friday which stated that tasks for OCR’s J275 GCSE computing units A452 and A453 are being withdrawn with immediate effect because there are a number of websites promoting worked answers for the live controlled assessment tasks," the spokesperson said.
"The notice was posted in error before we had finished consulting with internal and external stakeholders and it has therefore been taken down. We apologise for any confusion caused as a result of this mistake. We will inform centres by 12 noon tomorrow (Tuesday 1st July) of our final decision.”
The statement adds yet more confusion for schools, which are currently facing the prospect of seeing around 20 weeks' worth of students' work counting for nothing.
The coursework in question is for June 2015, meaning many of the Year 10 candidates will have completed the work and in some cases submitted it as part of their GCSE.
In the letter that was posted in error, OCR said: “It has come to our attention that there are a number of websites promoting worked answers for all of OCR’s GCSE Computing live controlled assessment tasks.
“As a result of this all tasks for both GCSE units A452 and A453 have been withdrawn with immediate effect. We appreciate that some candidates may well have completed these tasks; however, in order to maintain the integrity of the assessment and to be fair to all candidates the existing tasks will no longer be valid for submission in June 2015.”
Unlike coursework in other subjects, such as English, where tasks can take three hours to complete, certain tasks on the computing GCSE controlled assessment can take 20 hours and equates to 10 weeks’ worth of work.
OCR's now deleted letter had advised candidates affected to take one of the alternative tasks, but the exam board said it would not set those tasks until September.
Drew Buddie, vice chair of the ICT and computing subject association Naace, said the prospect of scrapping the assessment was "nothing short of disgraceful".
"Two tasks at 20 hours each equates to 20 weeks' worth of controlled assessment. There is no way schools will be able to complete that as well as cover the theory ready for the exam," Mr Buddie said.
"It's bananas for OCR to think they can and it will just mean schools, given the choice, will ditch the qualification and do something else like ICT. OCR needs to reconsider its decision."
Teachers had taken to Twitter to express their outrage at the decision, and the latest explanation from OCR will leave them hanging on until tomorrow.
Writing under the hashtag #withdrawnCA, @moggga wrote: "As things stand, I can't see past having to drop @ocr_ict."