Top grade mistake

Runshaw College, Langdale Road, Leyland
Runshaw College, Langdale Road, Leyland

Runshaw College students are being told this week that they will not be awarded A Level grades from their end of year exams due to a teaching error.

The AQA Examination Board has informed the Leyland college that 650 biology students will have to take home their estimated grades when the results are published in August, rather than the ones they achieved in the actual exams earlier this year.

The action has been taken after the examination board found staff had given students an unfair advantage about what to expect in the practical science exams, following practice experiments and group discussions in class in the lead-up to the all-important tests.

Letters are today being sent out to 400 year one (AS) and 250 year two (A2) A-Level students as bosses at the Langdale Road campus admit it is an ‘unfortunate incident.’

A college spokesman said: “Our science teachers have received some training from the examination board in the last two years and were advised they could run similar experiments in class to prepare students for science practical exams, which they did.

“Unfortunately, this year, it appears that the biology team misinterpreted what they were allowed to do to prepare students for the summer 2013 AS and A2 biology practical exams.

“They ran similar (but not identical) experiments to those on the real exams; however, the exam board has judged that the experiments and the subsequent in-class group discussion activities gave our students an unfair advantage over students in other centres.”

The spokesman added: “This is an isolated incident that is the first of its kind ever for any subject at the college, and it has occurred as a result of a misinterpretation of the rules.”

The AQA exam board has, however, assured the college that overall AS and A2 student grades in biology will not be adversely affected as a result of the ‘wrongdoing’.

It has informed Runshaw that to establish an overall grade for biology, students will be given estimated scores based on their performance in all the other modules that make up the course.

Runshaw’s spokesman said: “To make sure that a misunderstanding of this nature cannot happen again, we will be putting in additional independent checks and, where appropriate, seeking advice from the examination board first before running any preparatory practical activities.”

He added: “We are very proud of our track record in relation to the conduct of public examinations and we take our responsibilities very seriously.

“We often go well above and beyond what is required to ensure they are carried out fairly. For example, the written part of the science practical exams are always invigilated by a team of specialist invigilators at Runshaw College – whereas most colleges use class teachers to invigilate these exams.

“This is an unfortunate but unprecedented incident at our college; we will take the immediate steps to ensure it does not happen again.”

A spokesman from the AQA said: “We don’t publish or discuss the findings of cases like this.

“But whenever we find evidence of wrongdoing we always take appropriate action.”

- Are you affected by this? Please call reporter Kay Taylor on 01257 264911.