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Watchdog to step up script security

ENGLAND's qualifications regulator is investigating how to tighten the security surrounding the distribution of millions of exam papers following a spate of problems this summer.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is looking at options including a greater use of security couriers to send completed scripts from schools to the exam boards.

This summer, exam boards had to change several papers following distribution problems. In May, the AQA board withdrew 1.5 million English and English literature GCSE exams following the theft of a Parcelforce van carrying the tests. AQA also had to change some GCSE science papers after a school reported a batch of papers had been opened and one removed. And the OCR board replaced GCSE chemistry, science and maths papers in June after a package of them was found in the street.

Ken Boston, chief executive of the QCA, is a strong advocate of using computer technology to speed up the distribution of papers and completed scripts. He backs the digitisation of the marking system, where scripts are scanned into computers and sent electronically to markers.

The QCA wants 10 per cent of scripts to be marked electronically by next year.

David Gee, who has been appointed by the QCA to oversee the distribution changes, said: "A number of areas are under scrutiny, including the process by which exam papers get to schools, and the distribution to examiners."

At a conference of the Examinations Officers' Association, Mike Oldham, exams officer at a comprehensive in the Channel Islands, called for greater use of secure couriers.

Mr Gee said this was one option, but it might need extra money from the Government.

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