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World at One Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Exam board faces inquiry
At the start of this week, the OCR examination board told anyone who asked that the rash of stories about inexplicable 'A' Level grades was 'not a story'.

If they hoped that would put an end to the questioning, they will have been disappointed.

Over the past 72 hours, the board - and to some extent the QCA, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority which supervises it - have been driven onto the defensive.

The board has been forced to admit that many students have indeed had their marks depressed as part of a specific plan to achieve consistency with previous years.

Today's Evening Standard reports that the Education Secretary has launched an urgent inquiry into the issue of what it calls the 'downgrading scandal', but the department told us that there was no change to the existing plan for the QCA to investigate - an idea condemned by opposition parties who say the QCA is part of the problem.

So, have AS levels become more of a help than a hindrance and how is it that these relatively new exams created, seemingly, a marking headache for the OCR?

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