Watchdog's blunder list opens with 38 exam board mistakes

THE Government's exam watchdog will compile an exam board blunder list after new figures show that 38 errors have been made on GCSE and A-level papers this year.

In previous years, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority was not required to keep tabs on mistakes made by awarding bodies. However, publicity surrounding a series of errors made in the January and June exams means a file of undetected mistakes will now be collected by the watchdog.

The demand for information is part of the QCA's attempts to keep a closer eye on boards.

The new education Bill will give the quango powers to intervene if a board fails to meet expectations.

Problems at Edexcel have hit the headlines most often, with the exam board admitting to seven mistakes last year.

Now its competitors have also been forced to reveal their full error quota in response to a written question in Parliament and both have a worse score. AQA made a total of 15 blunders this year and OCR held its hands up to 16 mistakes.

The huge increase in the number of exam papers following the introduction of modular AS and A2-levels has increased the margin of error, according to the exam boards.

Meanwhile, schools have claimed that the Edexcel AS maths paper was too difficult for most pupils and harder than the papers produced by the other two boards.

It could mean that pupils sitting the Edexcel exam answer fewer questions correctly but get the same grade as pupils who perform better in the other awarding body papers. A spokesman for Edexcel said the standards board had not yet met to fix grade boundaries.

The standard of the AS maths paper is still presenting a problem following a failure rate of a third last year - double that of other subjects.

The exam board has also threatened student Jonathan Higgs with legal action this week over a website which criticises its work.

The "Edexhell" site was set up by the 18-year-old after his music AS-level went up from a D to a B on appeal. Edexcel's IT director Chris Stubbings emailed the site claiming its contents were libellous: "I am taking legal action to have it removed," he said.

A spokesman for the exam board said it had invited the student, a former pupil of Queen Elizabeth High School, Hexham, to visit their operation in London.

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