Belfast Telegraph

Doubts over Northern Ireland GCSE computer coursework after answers leaked

By Rebecca Black

A question mark is hanging over GCSE coursework undertaken by hundreds of students in Northern Ireland following a leak online.

The situation affects pupils studying computer science via British exam boards AQA, OCR, Pearson and Eduqas.

Local examinations board CCEA does not currently offer a GCSE qualification in computer science.

It has been reported that detailed solutions for the assessment were discussed online by students and possibly teachers who had already completed the task.

It is not known where the leaks originated from.

UK exams regulator Ofqual has been investigating the matter.

It said the situation meant it was impossible for the exam boards to ensure the grades set to be awarded next summer would be fair.

The breach affects both year 11 and year 12 students.

The Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents the exam boards, told the BBC that it was not possible to specify exactly how many pupils in Northern Ireland were affected "as schools have not entered all candidates for the summer 2018 examinations".

Last year 630 local pupils completed computing qualifications with exam boards other than CCEA.

A statement from Ofqual said: "Non-exam assessment in computer science is intended to test students' programming skills and is worth 20% of the overall nine to one grade.

"However, there is evidence that some of this year's tasks have been posted to online forums and collaborative programming sites, contrary to exam board rules.

"Detailed solutions have been provided in many cases, and some of these posts have been viewed thousands of times.

"The apparent extent of malpractice in this qualification leads us to believe that it is no longer possible for exam boards to ensure that grades awarded next summer will fairly reflect the ability of all students unless changes are made to the assessment arrangements."

Ofqual is now running a consultation on what alternatives to put in place. Its preferred option is to retain the assessment, but it won't count towards the overall GCSE mark.

Julie Swan, Ofqual's executive director for general qualifications, said: "We must take immediate action to address these issues and the potential impact on public confidence in relation to this qualification.

"We believe our preferred solution will deliver fairer and more reliable results than would otherwise be the case."

A spokesman for CCEA said: "No students taking examinations with local board CCEA will be affected by any potential changes."

Belfast Telegraph

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