Exam errors – Autumn update

October 10th, 2011

Two previous posts on this blog in July 2010 (see Jane Oldham’s here and mine here) have considered the potential legal consequences arising out of the exam paper errors which occurred in summer 2011. Department for Education statistics now show that almost 140,000 papers were affected.

The Department for Education’s regulatory response to this issue is now taking shape. The Department has announced that Ofqual will be given new powers to fine exam boards which make mistakes in exam papers. The direct imposition of financial penalties will add to Ofqual’s current powers, which include withdrawing an exam board’s recognition.

At present the proposals are in outline form. A maximum penalty of 10% of the organisation’s turnover (as opposed to its profit) certainly appears significant, but the circumstances in which this will be imposed remain to be seen. It will also be interesting to see how exam boards react to the prospect of being fined, as opposed to having their recognition, or right to offer certain qualifications, withdrawn.

The Department for Education hopes to provide Ofqual with the new power before the summer 2012 exams. Ofqual is to conduct a 12-week consultation in relation to the proposals, following which legislation is likely to be introduced. As such, more details of the new power are likely to emerge in due course.

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