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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 June, 2004, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
'No re-sits' after exam theft
By Angela Harrison
BBC News Online Education staff

exam room
8,000 UK students are sitting the papers
The exam board Edexcel has rejected calls for a re-sit of an exam after A-level questions were posted on a website.

Police are investigating the theft of A-level papers from maths and chemistry exams being taken by 8,000 pupils.

Edexcel says it is confident of tracking down the cheats.

Questions from a maths paper being taken on Monday were posted on a website on Sunday.

In a separate incident, the Daily Mirror obtained pages from four exam papers in chemistry and maths.

It handed them over to the exam board.

Edexcel says it is to "substantially change" one of the papers, in chemistry, which is due to be taken next Tuesday.

The other three papers will go ahead as planned but will be "subjected to stringent checks for cheating", officials said.

Police are working with the internet service provider and have identified the source of the questions posted on the internet, they said.

The questions were posted on Sunday night on a students' forum on a website called UK-learning by someone asking for revision help from other users.

The poster, who called himself Pete2004, said the questions were from practice papers designed to mimic the real Edexcel exams.

The next day students who had looked at the questions on the site were shocked to see them turn up on the Pure maths 2 paper.

Security breach

Edexcel rejected calls from some students for a re-sit of Monday's Pure maths 2 paper, saying the small number of questions involved would not dramatically affect an overall A-level grade.

However, students who were on the site on Sunday night have told BBC News Online that five or six of the eight questions on the paper were posted - enough to make a difference to a grade they said.

Edexcel said it was able to track down pupils who had logged on to the page where the questions were posted and would be closely checking exam papers for evidence of cheating.

For example, if a student was thought to have scored exceptionally well on the questions believed to have been leaked but not so well on others, they and their school could be questioned.

Several users of the students' web-site have contacted BBC News Online to say they are worried they will be penalised for looking at the questions even though they did not know they were leaked questions.

A spokeswoman for Edexcel said: "We are working with the police and we are confident we will get the cheats. Where cheating has gone on, they will be disqualified and their grade will be withdrawn.

"Clearly, there has been a breach of security in the system. It relies on trust. We deliver papers to named individuals in schools and they are locked away.

"Our main concern is to ensure integrity of the examinations. We want to reassure those who have genuinely worked hard that they will be all right but the cheats will be got and disqualified."

I really don't have faith in the examination system anymore
Nilkanth Patel, A-level student
Many students have emailed BBC News Online to voice concern about the exams they have taken.

Nilkanth Patel, from south London said: "After spending all year preparing for exams and then finding out other students gained an unfair advantage in the exam is really upsetting.

"I really don't have faith in the examination system anymore and I feel the government should intervene to put a stop to the shambles that has gone on this year."

Last year, a teacher who stole exam papers and distributed them to pupils before they sat the test was given a three month sentence by Kingston Crown Court.

Farzana Akbar was also banned from teaching for three months by the General Teaching Council after admitting taking five GCSE maths papers from the Archbishop Lanfranc School in south London.

A selection of your comments so far:

This makes me feel absolutely outraged. I worked so hard in the run up to my P2 exam, the thought that other students have an unfair advantage over me makes me feel like crying in frustration.

This is our future which is at stake here. Nice one Edexcel, you've messed up yet again.
Rukaya Johaadien, England

I use uk-learning all the time (i didn't see the P2 questions though) and i was really annoyed by that Pete2004 guy because uk-learning is an excellent website and he tarnished its image.
Tam Syed, bradford

I am a regular visitor to the UK Learning forums. The forums are of a great help to myself and fellow students, and I have never witnessed any 'cheating' on there.

I didn't visit the forums the night before my P2 Edexcel exam because I was busy revising. However, I am shocked and appalled that these papers have been leaked and if i had visited the forums on that night, I may be subject to an investigation.
Vicky Forster, Chelmsford, Essex, UK

I feel sorry for all those whho have taken P2. I know how hard people have to work to try and get the maths results they aim for, and this lack of security and shallowness of the person stealing the papers is beyond belief.

The people who looked at the site without realising that it was the real paper must be distraugth that all their hard work and dedication has effectivly been ruined by one selfish individual.
Joseph, Gosport, Hampshire

I think the system is a shambles if something as bad as this can happen! I sat that p2 paper after spending a lot of time working on it in order to get a good grade and now there is going to be a stupidly high grade boundary which will make us suffer a loss of at least one grade. There is no way everyone will be caught. We should atleast be offered a resit!
Graham Maxwell, Martock near Yeovil, Somerset

This brings serious doubts over the public examination system in this country. Having spent a year preparing for the exam and finding out that people can cheat like this so easily really annoys me.
Ashna Patel, south London

I am an active member of the UK Learning forum. I feel sorry for those who read the P2 threads (now hidden from view) because all except Pete2004 were on there to help others or to get help. Pete2004 is the only cheater on there and I fear that many other students will be punished for what is ultimately Edexcel's fault. And it is not isolated I know of someone who was offered a paper and turned it down, really when will Edexcel get their act together?
Eva, Plymouth

I could not believe my luck when I logged on and those questions appeared. I didn't think miracles happened anymore - anyhow, I'll get an 'A' now and its all thanks to Pete2004 and the kind folk at Edexcel.
Dobbo, London

Why are you blaming Edexcel??!! As an employee of another of the Awarding Bodies (not Edexcel!), I would like to point out that it is the responsibility of the centre to ensure that the question papers are kept securely locked away until the day of the exam. Therefore, it is obviously the fault of the centre at which 'Pete2004' is likely to be a pupil. If you have to blame someone, blame the member of staff who broke the rules. It might just be your teacher...

Do UK-Learning really have the authority to disclose personal information, ip-addresses etc. to a third party (Edexcel) without consent? I seriously doubt it. Stop worrying A-Levellers, just because you logged on to this site doesn't mean you'll get caught!
Kenny Bobasey, London

I am absolutely furious that it was possible for someone to gain access to these papers in advance. My step-daughter sat this maths paper and will be sitting the chemistry also. She has worked enormously hard to ensure she achieves the results requires for her university place.

This news has distressed her severely and, no doubt, many others, at this crucial time. The only acceptable action for Edexcel is to make provision for re-sits, anything less is an insult to the many hard working pupils who have fallen victim to this selfish act.
Alastair McLaren, Warwick

As a secondary school teacher who has spent some time invigilating examinations these past few weeks, I am disgusted to discover that someone feels that hard work and preparation are not necessary and that to cheat is the best way forward.

Pupils who have attended all lessons, revised and sought help prior to the exams being sat are being robbed of their qualification, by the minority who feel that they can get on in life by immoral and unethical ways!
Samantha Pullan, Wakefield

Anger at theft of A-level papers
23 Jun 04  |  Education
Exam papers changed after theft
28 May 04  |  Education
Exam paper mix-up prompts re-runs
06 May 04  |  Education

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