Education & Family

Exam board's near miss over results

Exam room Image copyright PA
Image caption All exam boards had many more papers to mark last year

One of England's biggest exam boards, OCR, almost failed to issue its GCSE and A-level results on time last year, the exams regulator has said.

Ofqual's investigation into the handling of GCSE and A-Level results said the near miss was caused mainly by problems with an online marking system.

But Ofqual decided not to prosecute the board after it put things right and published the 2014 results on time.

OCR said students and teachers can feel confident about this year's results.

"Regardless of the timing of this report, students and teachers can feel confident about this summer (2015)," said a spokesman for the board.

"All A-level marking has been completed and the quality of marking has been upheld."

'Catastrophic'

Last year's problems at the exam board occurred after it decided to move to a 100% online marking system and tightened up some of its processes.

The scrapping of re-sits and early entry exams also meant OCR had nearly one million extra papers to mark in the summer.

Ofqual had to intervene after concerns were raised about the exam board's ability to mark all the 2014 GCSE and A level papers on schedule.

The problems came to light during the regular meetings with exam boards that the regulator had last year in the weeks leading up to results day.

The Ofqual chief executive said in a letter to the board: "The events of last summer caused Ofqual the greatest concern. For a time there seemed to be a real possibility that OCR would fail to issue timely results."

"The consequences had that happened might have been catastrophic; for candidates, for schools and universities and for the wider system.

"The detrimental impact on public confidence in our system might have taken many years to overcome," the letter added.

'Warts and all'

Universities rely on receiving A-level exam results ahead of candidates, who all hear on the same day, in order to be able to manage their offers of places and admissions to courses.

OCR said it had met last year's deadline for the university and college admissions services despite having many extra scripts to mark electronically.

But it admitted that last summer's marking did not go as smoothly as it would have wanted.

"Although we delivered the results on time, as soon as possible after the actual results day we launched a voluntary 'warts and all' investigation," a spokesman said.

"We welcome the regulator's report as it confirms we delivered the results on time, took the right steps to improve our system resilience and that Ofqual did not need to take any regulatory action," OCR added.

And the spokesman stressed that no doubt had been cast on the accuracy of last year's marks.

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