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Thursday, 15 August, 2002, 17:59 GMT 18:59 UK
Exam board loses students' scripts
exam room
Some 2,000 candidates are said to have been affected
The biggest UK exam board has failed to mark about 2,000 A-level candidates' exam scripts.

As the students went to collect their results on Thursday morning they received a letter from the AQA board saying they were being issued with estimated grades.

The board has apologised "unreservedly" and is promising the students they will not lose out as a result of its blunder.

The exams watchdog, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has begun an immediate investigation.

Not returned

The QCA - publicly "extremely disappointed" and privately livid - said it had not been told about the scale of the problem and discovered it only through routine monitoring.

It is understood that the problem involves mainly English and business studies scripts - although the BBC has also been told by students that economics papers might also be missing.

The exam board's spokesman, George Turnbull, said the papers had been sent out to markers and had not come back.

When they did, if the students would have achieved higher marks than they have been allocated, they will be upgraded.

They will not however be downgraded because estimated grades are guaranteed.

Full report demanded

The board has struggled to find sufficient markers - a common problem, given the huge expansion of the examination system

The QCA's head of audit, Bill Kelly, said: "We are reassured that the numbers involved are relatively small and do not affect the national pass rate.

"We would expect estimated grades to be fairly accurate because students have already completed, and gained marks for, five sixths of the work for their qualification.

"Nevertheless, this is completely unacceptable and will cause needless anxiety to many students, especially those who are awarded a guaranteed grade below their expectations.

"We have made this very clear to AQA and have required a full report.

"Students and their parents can be reassured that the QCA will be closely monitoring the situation to see students receive their final grades with all speed."


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