Results withheld for 78 students following A-level Maths leak

Students taking exam

Whole paper was circulated on 'closed social media networks', Edexcel confirms

Seventy-eight students have had exam results withheld while Edexcel investigates whether they were advantaged by the leak of an entire A-level Maths paper in June.

All of the questions from A-level Maths Paper 3 were circulated on 'closed social media networks' ahead of the exam being sat on 14 June, Pearson (the company that owns Edexcel) has now confirmed.

Additionally, two questions were widely circulated on open social networks including Twitter and The Student Room before the exam.

Although Edexcel had previously said it was considering removing those two leaked questions from the exam's marking, it has now confirmed all questions have been included in marking, with grade boundaries unaffected. 

No removal of exam questions from leaked paper

In confirming that marks will still be awarded for all questions from the leaked paper, Hayley White, Pearson UK assessment director, says in a video statement: "I know that there were mixed views about whether we should include or remove the two questions that were shared on social media.

"Having now marked these questions, we've made the decision not to remove them. This is because, through our various levels of analysis, we found that student performance on these questions was as expected and it wouldn't be fair to disadvantage everyone by removing them."

Leak detected ahead of exam

Edexcel has confirmed it was aware of the leak of the two questions before making the decision to go ahead with the exam.

"As a result of our own monitoring efforts we were able to confirm that two questions were circulating on Twitter ahead of the exam on Friday 14 June," says Derek Richardson, Pearson's responsible officer in a video statement.

"Based on the evidence available to us at that point - guided always by our overriding principle of fairness for all students - we did decide to proceed with the exam. 

"It was too late to replace papers and rescheduling would have caused a massive amount of additional stress and disruption for tens of thousands of students across the country."

Full leak detected after exam

The leak of entire paper on closed social networks was not detected until after the exam ended, Edexcel says.

In a comment piece published on TES, Sharon Hague, senior vice president of UK schools at Pearson, says: "Our investigations team was not alerted to this or indeed able to confirm it until after the exam had been sat. Why? We get sent lots of images of question papers around exams like maths and the vast majority of these are hoaxes designed to get clicks on social media.

"In this instance, our investigations team was able to confirm a number of authentic images, leading us to take immediate, swift action."

Exam results withheld

Edexcel has been working with the police to investigate the leak.

"Our investigations team later discovered the questions from the whole exam paper had been circulated by some students within a closed social media network ahead of the exam," says Richardson. "We were able to narrow the source of the breach down to one specific centre.

"We worked fast to interview the individuals involved both to understand the origin of the breach and to understand which students may have been involved so that we could exclude their marks from results. 

"Everyone we interviewed agreed to let us examine their phones with them as part of our own investigation and the police were also able to seize equipment from two people that they subsequently arrested. 

"That police case is ongoing and we hope will end in a criminal prosecution. At the time of recording this video, there are currently 78 students whose results we have withheld while we complete our malpractice procedures with them."

Grade boundaries unaffected by leak

Edexcel confirmed it has found 'anomalies' while marking the paper, although it described the number of these instances as 'limited'.

"We've taken these students out of any further statistical analysis that we use to determine grade boundaries and we've had a closer look at their performance," says White.

"We can ensure that everyone is treated fairly in the marking process because we have powerful tools at our disposal to uncover those who have cheated and those who have tried to seize an unfair advantage. 

"Our tools include being able to look at student performance on individual questions on each paper to understand the relative difficulty. We are then able to look at individual student performance on each question to see whether their performance is unexpected.

"Measures such as these give us confidence to be able to ensure that we issue fair results and also take action where there is evidence of any individual attempting to undermine the system. All students can therefore be assured that grade boundaries have been set fairly and their results are not affected."

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