Exams watchdog Ofqual has issued a warning to schools over a rising number of fraudulent attempts to get hold of exam papers before they are taken – and said schools should also prepare for fluctuations in their AS-level results this year.
In a letter to schools, Ofqual said they should be “vigilant” about the security of exam papers because of a rise in fraudulent attempts to get hold of question papers from schools before they are taken.
And it said this year’s AS-level results, the first under a new “decoupled” system in which results in 13 reformed subjects do not count towards a pupil’s final A-level grade, were likely to be more variable for individual schools and colleges than in previous years.
“Increasingly we are being made aware of attempts by individuals to obtain copies of secure question papers,” the letter said.
“Exam boards will not ask you to email copies of secure material to anyone, nor will they ask you to confirm your secure login details by email or over the phone. If you are in any doubt about a request, please check with the exam board concerned.”
It comes after a headteacher used social media to warn of a scam in which a man claiming to be a courier for the AQA exam board asked school staff to give him all of the exam papers that were due to be taken the following week.
Geoff Barton, headteacher of King Edward VI School in in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, shared a message from a Norfolk headteacher that said the man knew the school exam officer’s name even though she had only been in the post for four weeks, and also knew the exam paper codes.
An AQA spokeswoman told TES: “We would never send anyone unannounced to a school like this.” She said the board was “really grateful” to the school for alerting the board and other schools to the scam.
The letter also said that this year’s AS level results might differ from schools’ expectations.
"While nationally results may remain steady, we know that schools and colleges can see variability in their results year to year even when qualifications do not change," it said.
"But we also know that when qualifications do change, schools and colleges can typically see more variability in their results."
Major changes this year mean AS-level results in 13 subjects will not count towards students’ A-level grades.
It said: “As a result, we expect this summer's changes to AS levels will mean that individual school or college results will be more variable than in recent years.”