Now even Cam­bridge of­fers clear­ing places

In­ves­ti­ga­tion launched as exam board ac­cepts Daily Mail re­porter with fake CV and bogus qual­i­fi­ca­tions for Latin and his­tory exam mark­ing

Daily Mail - - News - By Eleanor Hard­ing Ed­u­ca­tion Editor

CAM­BRIDGE has for the first time let in ex­tra stu­dents on A-level re­sults day to boost the num­ber of stu­dents from dis­ad­van­taged back­grounds.

The world- class univer­sity has given places to 67 high-fliers who were orig­i­nally re­jected but ended up get­ting bet­ter re­sults than ex­pected.

While other uni­ver­si­ties usu­ally go through the ‘clear­ing’ process to fill up places ev­ery sum­mer, Cam­bridge in the past has only ever ad­mit­ted stu­dents via its ini­tial ap­pli­ca­tions cy­cle. How­ever, Cam­bridge has been heav­ily crit­i­cised for let­ting in dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­bers of well- off stu­dents, of­ten be­cause they have been to the best schools and interview well.

In March, it in­vited any­one from a poor background who had been re­jected to reap­ply, say­ing they would get a ‘sec­ond chance’ on re­sults day so long as they met grade requiremen­ts.

Dr Sam Lucy, direc­tor of ad­mis­sions, said yes­ter­day: ‘It is won­der­ful to see that so many who may not have man­aged to show their full aca­demic po­ten­tial dur­ing the main ad­mis­sions round have gone on to excel at A-level due to their hard work and de­ter­mi­na­tion.’ Af­ter this pi­lot year, Cam­bridge hopes to make the same route avail­able in fu­ture. This year, 71 stu­dents who re­ferred themselves for con­sid­er­a­tion on A-level re­sults day were of­fered places on cour­ses from English to com­puter sci­ence, and 67 ac­cepted.

Each stu­dent had to meet at least three de­pri­va­tion cri­te­ria, such as living in a neigh­bour­hood where not many peo­ple go to univer­sity, or grow­ing up in care. Ex­perts have pre­vi­ously warned that many dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents are un­der­es­ti­mated by their teach­ers when it comes to pre­dicted grades. Yes­ter­day, ad­mis­sions body UCAS said a record 17,420 stu­dents were ac­cepted through clear­ing on re­sults day, up from 15,160 in 2018.

ONE of Bri­tain’s largest exam boards failed to vet ap­pli­cants ap­proved to mark A-level ex­ams this year, a Daily Mail in­ves­ti­ga­tion has found.

OCR over­saw 163,000 A-level en­tries this year – more than a fifth of the to­tal of 737,000 made in Eng­land in 2019.

But the award­ing body of­fered A-level ‘asses­sor’ roles to a re­porter in two sub­jects in which she had no qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

The re­porter applied on­line for two mark­ing roles in his­tory and Latin us­ing fab­ri­cated CVs.

At no stage did OCR or its man­age­ment com­pany, Cam­bridge As­sess­ment, check any of her claims, seek any ref­er­ences or ver­ify any of the qual­i­fi­ca­tions. The re­porter was then added to OCR’s ‘ap­proved asses­sor’ list.

OCR in­sisted last night that the re­porter would have been put through ‘ ro­bust’ train­ing and ‘ stan­dard­i­s­a­tion’ tests be­fore ac­tu­ally be­ing given any pa­pers to mark. But it did not ex­plain why its staff had failed to check ref­er­ences be­fore ap­prov­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion.

By con­trast, when the re­porter applied to an­other exam board, AQA, she was turned down when she failed to pro­vide proof of the al­leged qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

The find­ings raise se­ri­ous ques­tions over how rig­or­ous OCR’s stan­dards are when it comes to choos­ing exam as­ses­sors. They come two years af­ter a warning about a short­age of ex­am­in­ers.

Last night Ofqual, the ex­ams watch­dog, said it was in­ves­ti­gat­ing. ‘We are closely re­view­ing the ev­i­dence pro­vided by the Daily Mail,’ a spokesman said. ‘ We will take ap­pro­pri­ate reg­u­la­tory action if we find our rules have not been met.’

On Thurs­day thou­sands of A-level stu­dents dis­cov­ered whether they had achieved the grades to en­ter their univer­sity of choice.

This year the per­cent­age of A* and A grades awarded fell to its low­est point in 12 years af­ter the ex­ams were made tougher in or­der to fight dumb­ing down.

OCR (Ox­ford, Cam­bridge and RSA Ex­am­i­na­tions) ad­ver­tised its mark­ing va­can­cies through a Google ad­vert head­lined: ‘ Boost your income. Be­come an OCR asses­sor.’

The job cri­te­ria stated that ‘ we may con­sider non-teach­ing can­di­dates’ and ‘spe­cial­ist mark­ing and mod­er­at­ing tasks do not re­quire a ref­er­ence’.

In her ap­pli­ca­tion for ‘OCR Latin AS/Alevel Asses­sor’, the re­porter applied as a man who had achieved a first class BA hon­ours de­gree in Clas­sics at the Univer­sity of Cam­bridge, and then a dis­tinc­tion in a Clas­sics MA at the Univer­sity of Manchester.

On the ap­pli­ca­tion CV she wrote that ‘he’ had stud­ied at the ex­clu­sive West­min­ster pub­lic school, achiev­ing three As.

She copied and pasted the univer­sity course de­scrip­tions in their en­tirety, as well as fab­ri­cat­ing a teach­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion. De­spite not know­ing a word of Latin, she was con­sid­ered qual­i­fied to mark six dif­fer­ent mod­ules in­clud­ing Latin Lan­guage, Latin Prose Lit­er­a­ture and Latin: Un­seen Translatio­n. A Cam­bridge As­sess­ment por­tal shows the mod­ules she was deemed qual­i­fied to mark.

For the his­tory mark­ing ap­pli­ca­tion, the re­porter con­structed a CV de­tail­ing a his­tory de­gree from the Univer­sity of Bris­tol. It con­tained one spelling and one gram­mat­i­cal er­ror.

The re­porter was sub­se­quently ap­proved to mark the A-level his­tory mo­d­ule Rus­sia 1894-1941. Af­ter ap­ply­ing on­line to OCR, both fake ap­pli­cants re­ceived emails which said: ‘We are pleased to in­form you that your ap­pli­ca­tion for the above has been suc­cess­ful. This ap­proval means that you have met our se­lec­tion cri­te­ria for this as­sess­ment ac­tiv­ity.’

Pa­pers are given to ex­am­in­ers on an ad-hoc ba­sis, and OCR states in its ac­cep­tance let­ter: ‘This does not guar­an­tee we will be able to of­fer you an op­por­tu­nity to un­der­take as­sess­ment services at this time. When an op­por­tu­nity be­comes avail­able we will con­tact you.’

Both fake as­ses­sors were im­me­di­ately given de­tails of how to claim for ex­penses, and were put on the UCLES (Univer­sity of Cam­bridge Lo­cal Ex­am­i­na­tions Syn­di­cate) com­pany pen­sion scheme.

OCR also ac­cepts as­ses­sors from over­seas as long as they have a bank ac­count in their coun­try of res­i­dence. In some cases Cam­bridge As­sess­ment will even pay for flights ‘to and from a des­ti­na­tion out­side the UK’.

The Mail chose not to take the exercise any fur­ther so as not to jeop­ar­dise any can­di­dates’ exam pa­pers.

Last night, an OCR spokesman said: ‘ To en­sure high- qual­ity mark­ing, any­one who ap­plies to mark for OCR re­ceives ro­bust train­ing first. They are then re­quired to go through fur­ther “stan­dard­i­s­a­tion” tests.

‘We are con­fi­dent that the ex­am­in­ers who mark our pa­pers have passed ro­bust tests and that the qual­ity of their mark­ing is high.’

OCR exam as­ses­sors are in­formed that be­fore mark­ing pa­pers, they must com­plete train

‘Un­der­mines faith in the sys­tem’

ing via a por­tal and states that ‘the vast ma­jor­ity of train­ing is now com­pleted on­line’.

This usu­ally in­volves on­line ‘stan­dard­i­s­a­tion’ – the mark­ing of on­line prac­tice pa­pers to make sure that can­di­dates re­ceive grades which are nei­ther too high nor too low. Once as­ses­sors pass this they pro­ceed to ‘live mark­ing’ of scripts ac­cessed on­line.

The spokesman added that since July, it had in­tro­duced a new re­quire­ment for all UK ap­pli­cants to pro­vide iden­tity ev­i­dence as part of their asses­sor reg­is­tra­tion process.

In 2017 a re­port warned of a short­age of ex­am­in­ers, and the need for 20 per cent more peo­ple to mark exam pa­pers by 2019.

The pa­per by the Joint Coun­cil for Qual­i­fi­ca­tions, rep­re­sent­ing exam boards and head teach­ers, said a re­cruit­ment drive was ur­gently needed.

Com­ment­ing on the Mail’s reve­la­tions, Mike Buchanan, chief ex­ec­u­tive of HMC, the mem­ber­ship or­gan­i­sa­tion for lead­ing in­de­pen­dent schools said: ‘These al­le­ga­tions are very con­cern­ing and any­thing which un­der­mines faith in the sys­tem will re­quire se­ri­ous ex­am­i­na­tion by Ofqual.

‘Mark­ing in sub­jects such as his­tory and lan­guages can be par­tic­u­larly sub­jec­tive, so it is ex­tremely im­por­tant that ex­am­in­ers are ex­pe­ri­enced, trust­wor­thy and well man­aged.’

He added, how­ever, that he felt that over­all the ex­ams sys­tem was well run.

Ap­proved: A por­tal show­ing mod­ules the bogus asses­sor was deemed qual­i­fied to mark

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