Major exam board OCR narrowly avoided its deadline to return results for both A-levels and GCSEs last year, according to a report published today by Ofqual.
The exams watchdog said there were legitimate concerns that the exam board might have failed to submit results in 2014, which would have had a “huge impact on students, universities and schools”.
The regulator launched an investigation into OCR in September last year which uncovered a number of failings, particularly with the exam board's online marking system.
According to Ofqual, the problems centred around changes to the exams themselves. These included the removal of resits, which meant that OCR had a million more exam papers to mark last summer.
In a statement published today, Ofqual’s chief regulator Glenys Stacey – who announced earlier this week that she would be stepping down next year – said the checks and measures that OCR had put in place meant it would not be prosecuted.
“Our investigation and our review into OCR’s own internal investigation have shown us that the problems were caused by a number of internal issues at OCR,” Ms Stacey said. “OCR recognised the failings in its management systems that led to the marking problems and took the necessary steps to ensure that results were issued on time. This led us to decide not to take any further action.
“In light of its investigation, Ofqual required sight of OCR’s plans to avoid similar challenges this summer and has been monitoring closely the marking completed by all exam boards.”
The regulator also released a letter written by Ms Stacey in April addressed to OCR, in which she warned that the effect of submitting late exam results would have been “catastrophic”.
“The events last summer caused Ofqual the greatest concern. For a time there seemed to be a real possibility that OCR would fail to issue timely results. The consequences had that happened might have been catastrophic for candidates, for schools and universities and for the wider system,” the letter states.
It adds that had OCR submitted late results, the regulator would have imposed a monetary penalty of a “very substantial sum”.
OCR said it had hit the deadline for returning exam results, but had launched a full investigation to understand the issues it was confronting.
An OCR spokesperson said: “Last summer’s marking did not go as smoothly as OCR would have wanted. We welcome the regulator’s report as it confirms we delivered the results on time, took the right steps to improve our system resilience and that Ofqual did not need to take any regulatory action. OCR met the Ucas deadline – seven days before results day itself – despite having nearly a million extra scripts to mark electronically.
“Although we delivered the results on time, as soon as possible after the actual results day we launched a voluntary ‘warts and all’ investigation.”