The exam board Edexcel is to scrap and replace an A-level maths exam paper that pupils were due to sit on Thursday over fears the paper could have been leaked.
Pearson, the parent company of Edexcel, said it was withdrawing the A-level further maths paper and replacing it with a new version, following investigations into an earlier leak involving one of its A-level maths papers.
The latest potential leak was discovered at the same school suspected of being the source of an A-level maths paper that was being offered for sale via social media last week.
“As part of Pearson’s ongoing investigation of a centre into the breach of the A-level maths paper three on statistics and mechanics last week, and due to the actions of this centre, we have taken a decision to replace the forthcoming further maths A-level paper scheduled for this Thursday 20 June,” the company said.
“The investigation of the centre revealed that a packet containing the further maths paper, which will be sat by circa 7,000 students, had been opened by an individual at the centre. Whilst we have no current evidence to suggest that the paper or any of its questions have been shared, we are taking the necessary precautionary steps to safeguard the exam for the students sitting it.
“We are making arrangements to deliver the papers to all centres shortly before the exam, apart from the centre that is the focus of our investigation, where we are making separate arrangements to ensure these students can complete their exams.”
The potential breach is the latest example of poor security and lost or stolen papers that have plagued examination boards in recent years, with leaked papers able to be rapidly copied and distributed online.
In 2017, Pearson was forced to make changes to statistics and further pure maths A-level papers after reports that some students had seen questions in advance. And in 2017 and 2018 police investigations were launched into suspected leaks involving an Edexcel A-level maths papers, with 29 candidates having their results annulled as a result. The investigation into the 2017 case continues, with details forwarded to prosecutors by the police last April.
Sharon Hague, Pearson’s senior vice-president for schools, said the “unusual yet necessary step” of replacing this week’s paper was to maintain confidence in the exam system and ensure fairness.
“Our message to students is not to worry about this and focus on your revision as you normally would,” Hague said.
In last week’s leak, photographs of questions claimed to be from the maths paper were posted on Twitter, with a note telling candidates to send a message “if you want tomorrow’s A-level maths, stats and mechanics paper 3 exam”.
Ofqual, the exam regulator for England, said it was monitoring Pearson’s investigation. “We recognise the concerns of students, who should continue to prepare for their forthcoming exams as normal. If anyone has information relevant to these allegations we would urge them to contact Pearson or us in confidence,” it said.