Exams chaos as students get wrong paper

SECOND-LEVEL schools have vowed to do all they can to minimise disruption to almost 52,000 Leaving Certificate students forced to sit their second English papers on Saturday after this morning’s exam was accidentally given out at a school yesterday.

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) made the decision last night following a raft of text messages and internet discussions with details of questions apparently seen yesterday morning by students at the exam hall in question, believed to be in a school in Drogheda, Co Louth.

Students must now sit a back-up paper at 9.30am on Saturday as it was too late to circulate it to schools in time for this morning because the SEC was only made aware of the incident late yesterday afternoon.

“This is the earliest opportunity that the papers could be rescheduled because of the significant logistical difficulties in getting alternative papers to over 2,000 examination centres in about 800 schools and examination halls nationwide,” the commission said. It has suspended the exam superintendent in question from duty and is continuing to investigate the incident, which was the subject of major website discussions from as early as 3pm yesterday.

The SEC has established the wrong higher and ordinary level papers were given to students at the start of yesterday morning’s session, instead of paper 1 which they should have received.

While the mistake was noticed quickly and the papers retrieved, there was still time for students to see key elements of the exam.

Superintendents who supervise exams are usually teachers from other schools, and papers are kept in locked containers at each school until required. This is believed to be the first time such a rescheduling of exams has taken place.

Details of the likely costs of changing the timetable were unavailable last night from the SEC, which said its focus was on minimising disruption to students.

This was supported by the Joint Managerial Body, representing about 400 of the country’s 730 second-level school boards, which said schools will strive to ensure students can be facilitated on Saturday morning. The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland said parents and students can rest assured that no student will be disadvantaged by what happened.

As well as superintendents having to be available on Saturday morning, arrangements are also being made with Bus Éireann for students who avail of school transport to be brought to exams on Saturday.

Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe said the timetable change was regrettable but unavoidable. However, Labour Party education spokesman Ruairi Quinn said there should be fail-proof procedures to prevent such an “educational debacle”.

* A helpline is available for students and parents at 1800 713913 or www.examinations.ie

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