Second police probe launched after another alleged social media exam leak

Police are investigating another potential leak of an exam paper.

According to the Guardian, officers are looking into potential malpractice relating to AQA’s GCSE religious studies exam paper, which was sat by pupils on May 20.

The paper reported today that parents feared elements from the paper had been circulating on social network Snapchat.

AQA, the largest provider of GCSE and A-level exams in England, told the Guardian police had been contacted and were investigating.

Only one page of the exam is thought to have been affected, and the exam board believes that, as a result of a lack of online conversations about the paper, it “may not have been widely shared”.

Louisa Fyans, AQA’s head of exams integrity and inspection, said: “We were extremely disappointed to discover that some students were able to see a page from a GCSE Religious Studies paper before the exam. We contacted the police straight away and we’ve been doing our own investigation too.

“We realise students might be concerned – but there’s nothing to worry about as there are lots of things we can do to make sure no-one gets away with cheating, such as monitoring for students with inconsistent marks for this page.”

Fyans said that while claims of leaks on social media are often seen during exam season, these are “nearly always hoaxes designed to trick students or cause panic”.

“Our advice to students is always to steer well clear, as trying to view even a fake paper could affect their results.”

The breach is the latest in a series of high-profile incidents to have put strain on exam boards this season.

Just last week, Pearson was forced to replace an Edexcel A-level further maths paper due to be sat by thousands of pupils after an investigation found that a packet containing copies of the paper was opened at a school.

The breach was identified after a probe into the same school, which has not been named, was launched after sections of the A-level maths paper 3 exam were shared on social media the previous week. Police are investigating that incident.

It is not the first time in recent years that AQA has faced problems with the security of its papers.

Last year, the exam board confirmed two science papers were affected by a question error and leak on social media in the summer’s GCSE exams.

In that case, AQA was forced to award all pupils full marks in the affected questions so none were advantaged or disadvantaged by the issues, which saw the wrong questions put into a physics paper and a pupil sharing chemistry questions online before the exam.

The four exam boards that provide GCSEs and A-levels – AQA, Edexcel, OCR and WJEC – last year launched a review into malpractice following a rise in the number of penalties imposed on school staff and pupils for cheating.

However, the number of security breaches relating to GCSE and A-level exams fell by 40 per cent last year, despite a number of high-profile leaks on social media.

In its 2018 summer exam series report, exams regulator Ofqual reported that there were 68 security breaches in 2018, down from 114 in 2017.

Ofqual has vowed to investigate what can be done to “protect the integrity” of exams once results are issued this summer.