Police investigate website exam 'scam'
Schools news
Polly Curtis
Tuesday June 22, 2004


Police are investigating how questions from a maths A-level paper turned up on a website 24 hours before pupils sat the exam.

Angry A-level students contacted the exam board Edexcel after "mock" questions they had been debating on a website on Sunday turned up in the real paperEdexcel maths P2yesterday.

Edexcel said the police were called and it was investigating why the host of the website allowed "potentially illegal" activity to go unchecked.

Today, the hosts of www.uk-learning.net limited access to all talkthreads referring to the questions, which were posted on the site by a student with the username Pete2004 24 hours before the exam.

Several students helped Pete2004 work through the questions believing them to be for revision. Some returned to the website yesterday afternoon complaining of being duped into helping him cheat after they recognised questions in the exam.

An Edexcel spokeswoman said the questions were removed yesterday morning shortly after the board was alerted, and as the students were sitting the actual exam.

"We have identified the source and alerted the police. This is an ongoing investigation. Being in possession of a stolen paper is a criminal act," said the spokeswoman.

"Edexcel will take a decision on next actions when we know the scale of issue. We are enquiring why potential illegal activity has been allowed to go unchecked by the webhost.

"Our main concern is to ensure the integrity of examinations and to reassure those who genuinely worked hard for their grade that cheaters will be caught. Our IT department will trace them through the ISPs and they will be disqualified."

The exam watchdog, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, has been informed, she added.

Edexcel said it was "not aware" of any breaches of security to the maths paper, or any others.

If a breach is found to have involved a teacher, they could be subject to prosecution and even imprisonment. In 2002, a south London teacher was sentenced to three months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing exam papers from a south London school to show her pupils.

Edexcel is currently trialling online marking systems to allow exam scripts to be transported electronically to make the marking and distribution process faster and safer.

www.uk-learning.net could not be contacted today.

Last month, schools were told to ditch 1 million English and drama GCSE papers from the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance exam board and replace them with new ones after a batch were stolen from a Parcelforce van.