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Fury at Northern Ireland maths exam blunder

By Lindsay Fergus

Pupils in Northern Ireland have been caught up in yet another exam blunder just weeks after GCSE and A-level awarding bodies were warned to check all papers.

It has now emerged that an error has been found on AQA’s GCSE Maths Unit 2 Foundation, which pupils in 52 secondary schools here were sitting.

A spokeswoman for the England-based AQA said: “We are aware there has been a problem with the printing of our GCSE Maths Unit 2 Foundation exam paper and are very sorry that this has caused some students distress this morning.

“From the information we have at this stage, it seems that some of the papers contained questions from the March 2011 paper. We understand the problem version of the paper begins and ends with June questions, but has March questions in the middle of it.”

The latest mistake comes just weeks after qualification regulators called on all awarding organisations to recheck their papers after errors were found on two other exam papers.

Furious Education Minister John O’Dowd has expressed his “extreme disappointment” at the revelation.

He said: “The discovery of this error comes despite the assurances given by exam bodies following recent mistakes. In the last fortnight all awarding organisations offering GCSEs and A-levels were asked by the qualifications regulators to check all papers carefully to ensure there was no repeat of the earlier errors.

“Despite these assurances, we find ourselves faced with another situation where local students may have sat a test containing a mistake.”

The CCEA regulator for Northern Ireland, Roger McCune, has also hit out at the further blunders.

He said: “The regulators in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had asked all awarding organisations for assurances that papers to be taken from the start of last week would be error-free.

“These errors are unacceptable and the regulators will be seeking explanations of how these errors were not detected.

“I am asking for detail on the number of candidates affected in Northern Ireland and will be seeking reassurances from the awarding bodies that no candidate is disadvantaged by these incidents.”

Story so far

Less than two weeks ago errors were discovered in two Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) question papers. CCEA chiefs admitted that an error was included in a GCE further mathematics paper on May 31 that affected 122 students from 32 schools. A second mistake was included on a business studies paper on June 6. The issue came to light after exams watchdog Ofqual ordered checks.

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