Hundreds of students stripped of A-level grades as teachers at ‘outstanding’ sixth-form college are accused of leading them through exams

Teachers at an ‘outstanding’ sixth-form college have been accused of ‘leading’ hundreds of pupils through their A-level examinations. This is from the Daily Mail… 

Around 650 students will not be awarded grades after biology teachers apparently conducted experiments that were almost identical to the ones that were to appear in exam papers.

They also held in-class discussions about the experiments in preparation for the exam. Rules stipulate that pupils should not be led over what might appear in papers.

The AQA examination board’s investigation into allegations of malpractice at Runshaw College in Leyland, Lancashire, means that 400 AS students and 250 A-level students will not be awarded grades when results are published next month.

Instead they will have to take home their predicted results – meaning they could miss out on their preferred university course.

All 650 students yesterday received a letter, which refers to a ‘misinterpretation’ of the AQA’s guidelines, informing them of the decision.

Leon Staffa, 18, from Blackburn, said he was ‘shocked’. After under-performing on his A-level module last year, he re-took it in order to boost his grades and try to get into a prestigious university to study dental hygiene and therapy.

‘When I read the letter I thought ‘oh no, I’m going to have to do the exam for a third time’, he said.

‘I’ve spoken to a few of my friends in the class and they are all shocked too.

‘I didn’t really feel any better prepared for that exam than in my other subjects, so to hear that teachers have been accused of giving us an unfair advantage is disappointing. I don’t think they would have done it deliberately, the staff wouldn’t do that to us.’

Leon was hoping for a grade B on the module to try to boost his overall biology grade to an A, but said he would now have to ‘wait and see’.

Others took to the social networking site Twitter to express their disgust.

Jack Gudgeon said: ‘Slightly annoyed with Runshaw is a bit of an understatement right now.’ Andy Fong described the situation as a ‘joke’.

The college – rated ‘outstanding by Oftsed for 20 consecutive years – scored a 100 per cent pass rate last year.

In 2012, 70 per cent of A-level students achieved grades A* to B. Principal Kathy Passant, 55, who is retiring this summer after four years at the helm, claims that made it the country’s best sixth-form college. It is continually oversubscribed.

The college has described the incident as ‘unfortunate’ and its own inquiry concluded that there was ‘no deliberate attempt’ to cheat.

A spokesman said its science teachers were advised by the exam board that they could run similar experiments in class to prepare students for practical exams. ‘Unfortunately, it appears that the biology team misinterpreted what they were allowed to do to,’ said the spokesman.

‘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 college is introducing additional independent checks on exam preparations.

More at:  Hundreds of students stripped of A-level grades as teachers at ‘outstanding’ sixth-form college are accused of leading them through exams

Yikes – any thoughts on what’s happened here? Horrendous for the students. Can anyone clarify exactly what will happen to the students now? What is meant by ‘taking home their predicted grades’?. Please share your reactions in the comments or on twitter… 

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Categories: Secondary.


  1. numpty_teacher

    SchoolsImprove Seems like pressure to remain outstanding pushed them to dodgy practice- ‘m sure they’re not only ones, just they got caught

  2. hrogerson

    A_Weatherall SchoolsImprove and get the grades predicted by the same teachers that were cheating? How does that work???

    • A_Weatherall

      hrogerson SchoolsImprove and surely it’s just the ISA scores that are removed… Although this could knock at least 2 grades off.

    • Bio_Joe

      hrogerson A_Weatherall SchoolsImprove it could be an exam board prediction based on written exam performance.

      • hrogerson

        Bio_Joe A_Weatherall SchoolsImprove either way it looks like exam boards are cracking down: good news!

    • DoctorACook

      hrogerson A_Weatherall Definite crackdown this year: OCR questioned us because 3 students made identical corrections on their papers…

  3. A_Weatherall

    SchoolsImprove Not enough info about what the teachers actually did? Is there a link to a report? Awful for the students.

  4. Alison

    thought that the ‘I didn’t really feel any better prepared for that exam than in my
    other subjects, …’ quote was a bit worrying – on several levels. It doesn’t matter how rigorous/challenging your exams are if the system has drivers that encourage teachers/schools/colleges to spoon feed or subvert them.

  5. MumForAutism

    SchoolsImprove after seeing my DD sit A levels I’m generally not impressed with either the curriculums or teaching. Not surprised that..

  6. MumForAutism

    SchoolsImprove .. a sixth form has been found cheating. Not sure that A levels can be relied upon to select the most able any more.

  7. jk_graves

    Bio_Joe Surely you will always run the risk that you might duplicate their practicals in class without cheating? Particularly enzymes etc?

    • Bio_Joe

      jk_graves if it is the EMPA then they know what the practical would have been. Their practice prac was too close to the real thing.

      • jk_graves

        Bio_Joe It’s time it changed. We get demoralised as a dept every year over how to do the best for our kids without cheating.

      • jk_graves

        Bio_Joe Like the format of the exam, the skills content and the idea of the ISA/EMPA in principle but just too hard to police.

  8. Mktadvice4schls

    SchoolsImprove a really important story – have heard too many stories from students & teachers who are all losing faith in coursework

  9. JoNoGo

    SchoolsImprove would really like to know what really happened here. Surely all discuss in depth the stuff that is likely to come up in exam

  10. changepatriot

    SchoolsImprove What else can they do while TTTT ,PBR & wholesale privatisation flourish? Gove & Wilshaw must answer for their actions!

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