Exam boards to be fined over blunders in papers

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Exam boards are to be fined over future mistakes in GCSE and A-level papers, it was revealed yesterday.

It comes after a series of blunders in this summer’s exams which affected tens of thousands of teenagers.

England’s exams watchdog, Ofqual, will be given new powers to impose financial penalties on boards that make mistakes.

In a letter, Schools Minister Nick Gibb said that following the “significant” errors seen this summer, the Government had considered whether Ofqual had sufficient powers to deal with such problems, and concluded that it did not.

Other regulators have the power to issue fines, the letter to awarding bodies says, but Ofqual does not.

Currently, Ofqual’s strongest sanction is to withdraw recognition of an exam board, or its right to offer a particular qualification.

“Financial penalties would provide an effective and flexible sanction for the regulation of the qualifications system,” Mr Gibb wrote.

A board could face a maximum financial penalty of 10 per cent of its turnover, with the size of any fine imposed in proportion to the scale and seriousness of the error. The money will go to the public purse.

The new powers are expected to be in place for next summer’s exams, following a consultation and new legislation.

It has been suggested that around 100,000 students were affected by around 12 blunders in GCSE, AS and A-level papers.

The mistakes ranged from wrong answers in a multiple choice paper, to impossible questions and printing errors.