Wednesday, June 10, 1998 Published at 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
Midsummer night's exam nightmare
Pupils in Bradford faced questions on texts that they had not studied
It's the stuff of nightmares - sitting down in the exam hall, turning over the paper and finding that the questions are about books you've never read.
Usually at this point you wake up babbling. Except for a group of pupils in Yorkshire this exam horror story was an unhappy reality, when they discovered in the exam room that they had studied the wrong Shakespeare play for their English Literature A-level.
The 11 students at Bradford Grammar School, West Yorkshire, had spent two years studying "King Lear", only to find that that it wasn't on the exam paper.
The private, £4,700 a year school had made a mistake in the syllabus and taught the wrong play. For the pupils facing a blank piece of paper, King Lear's words, "Nothing will come of nothing," might have seemed horribly appropriate.
Headteacher Stephen Davidson, having contacted parents and sent a written apology to the pupils concerned, has contacted the examining board in an attempt to find a way of ensuring that the pupils are not penalised.
"The staff involved are devastated. The governors are asking me to revise procedures so that this can never happen again. But of course our main concern is with the pupils," the headteacher said.
Mr Davidson emphasised that this was only one paper in a course that includes other papers and continuous assessment and that, even without "King Lear", there were questions on the paper that the students could answer.
The exam board, the Oxford and Cambridge Examination and Assessment Council, said that in such exceptional circumstances the students would usually be marked on the information that was available, such as other exam papers and schools' predictions, so that candidates received the grade they deserved.
Last year, the school, which has Lord Healey and David Hockney as former pupils, had 85% of its English literature candidates passing at an A or B grade.
Meanwhile, examiners in Northern Ireland have rescheduled a GCSE history paper after its contents were leaked.
The Council for Curriculum, Examination and Assessment in Belfast confirmed there had been a "breach of confidentiality" of the exam, which was to have been taken by 6,000 students and will now be dropped in favour of an alternative paper, but refused to give further details.