Anger at errors in Braille exam;News;News amp; Opinion

3rd December 1999 at 00:00
A BRAILLE version of a blind teenager's GCSE question paper was so full of mistakes that a school had it retyped - and has billed the exam board for the pound;530 cost.

The exam board identified 27 errors in the Spanish GCSE paper, but sent it out uncorrected because of time constraints. The four schools that received the paper were also sent a list of the errors.

Staff at Great Marlow secondary, Buckinghamshire, spent two days producing a fresh version of the exam for 14-year-old Darren Haskell - and uncovered a further four mistakes.

Mistakes included flattened or not sufficiently raised dots, incorrect use of signs, and misspellings of words.

A spokesman for the exam board, Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, said there was no excuse for the mistakes in the paper it issued. But he said the board would be querying the school's bill for reproducing the whole paper in Braille.

Clive Ricks, Darren's headteacher, said the paper was totally unacceptable. Darren, who is sitting several GCSEs, has further termly papers to take for the modular Spanish exams.

Mr Ricks said: "Why wasn't this Braille paper OK? Why wasn't it retyped? Would they send out a sighted copy with 27 appalling mistakes? Of course they wouldn't."

George Turnbull, of AQA, said translating exam papers into Braille was complex and time-consuming, but that schools were not charged extra for them.

He said Mr Ricks' bill of pound;530 was out of step with the board's own costs - around pound;2,000 to translate papers for French, Spanish and German.

Rory Cobb of the Royal National Institute for the Blind said: "We are concerned to hear of any visually-impaired candidate being disadvantaged. But we understand the pressures on exam boards and are working with them to ensure this does not happen again."

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