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Northern Ireland exams body reveals mistakes found in two tests

By Connla Young

The exams body in Northern Ireland has revealed that errors have been discovered in two question papers.

The latest controversy comes after a series of damaging revelations about the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) including confirmation that thousands of pounds of taxpayers' cash has been spent by officials attending work-related events in recent years.

Now CCEA chiefs have admitted that an error was included in a GCE further mathematics paper on May 31 that affected 122 students from 32 schools.

The mistake related to one part of the last question on the paper and was worth four marks out of a total of 75 marks.

Education chiefs last night confirmed a second mistake was included on a business studies paper sat by students on Monday, June 6. It is understood a table contained in the paper contained a numerical error, but fortunately students were not asked any questions relating directly to that section of the paper.

The issue came to light after the exams watchdog Ofqual wrote to exams bodies ordering them to double check their papers.

Bosses at the CCEA said no student will be "disadvantaged" by the mistake and every case will be examined in the coming weeks.

CCEA regulator for Northern Ireland Roger McCune said the errors were "unacceptable".

He said there had been a number of inaccuracies in papers across the five awarding bodies.

There are five GCSE/GCE awarding bodies that can operate in Northern Ireland.

"We felt as regulators that we should write to the awarding bodies to express our disappointment at what has happened and to say that this is unacceptable," Mr McCune said.

Education Minister John O'Dowd said he was "extremely disappointed" by the errors.

Mr O'Dowd will be meeting the exam regulator next week to discuss the issue.

He said: "These errors cause unnecessary distress to students and they should not have happened. Pupils - and their parents and teachers - have a right to expect that the examination papers provided are carefully checked and error-free."

Anne Marie Duffy, director of qualifications at CCEA, said that additional checks have now been introduced.

She said: "We regret that these errors occurred and apologise for any distress this has caused."

Background

The latest controversy is one in a long list to hit the troubled exam body. Last month it was revealed that CCEA officials used public money to hire a jet to fly 30 members from Belfast to Galway, cover bar bills and put up members in hotels a stone's throw from its Clarendon Dock headquarters. The spending, which occurred between 2004 and 2009, came at a time when many local schools were crumbling.

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