Doncaster students’ A-Level hopes dashed due to coursework ‘malpractice’

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The mum of a Doncaster teenager says she is ‘disgusted’ after a group of students had their hopes of getting into their first-choice university dashed due to allegations of A-level coursework malpractice.

Due to concerns from exam board OCR that A-level students studying Advanced ICT at Danum Academy had not demonstrated their ability to create their coursework independently every student in the year group has had two coursework units disqualified.

The affected students were only made aware of the two units of – which accounted for approximately 40 per cent of their final mark – being disqualified when they went to pick up their A-level results from the school yesterday.

As a result of the alleged ‘malpractice’ a number of students have failed their Advanced ICT A-level, ruining the chances of some to be accepted into their first-choice university.

A letter distributed to students from Danum Academy headteacher Rebecca Staples said: “I have worked with Examination board, OCR, and two very senior members of staff to investigate concerns over the units.

“There was no direct cheating, however students have over relied on exemplar materials in writing their own coursework units. The exam board deems this to be malpractice as it has not sufficiently shown their ability to create their coursework independently.”

Natalie Matthews, aged 18, is one of the affected group of students, and her mum Joanne Harper says she is disappointed the school failed to notify parents of the problem.

“No-one had any idea at all, they only found out when they went to pick up their results because the letter was in with them,” said Joanne, of Doncaster Lane, Woodlands.

The 40-year-old added: “I feel really sorry for a lot of them in Natalie’s class because a lot of them wanted to do IT at university, and I think there’s quite a few who haven’t been able to get in because of this.

“Natalie wants to do floristry at Doncaster college so she’s okay, but she worked for two years for this and has come out with nothing. It’s not fair.

“If they hadn’t done their coursework properly or there was some sort of problem they should have been told before.”

Ms Staples said staff at Danum Academy were as surprised as the students as the teacher responsible for the subject has ‘never had this problem before,’ despite teaching the same syllabus for a number of years.

She also confirmed that some of the students on the Advanced ICT A-level course have not been able to get into their first-choice university as result of the coursework ‘malpractice’, but added that staff at the school were assisting those affected through the clearing process.

She added: “We are now looking to appeal the decision, something that we didn’t think would be possible until we received a letter from OCR yesterday.

“In the letter it states that some of the students did sufficiently demonstrate their ability to create independent coursework, so we feel the decision has been unfair.

“We are also encouraging students and parents to appeal, and we will help with that in any way possible.”

An OCR spokesperson said: “OCR takes all allegations of malpractice seriously and has been working closely with Danum Academy in Doncaster.

“Regrettably, there are rare occasions when we are unable to accept candidates’ work and therefore it is not possible to award a fair grade. In these cases, it is helpful if the school can explain the situation to universities and we are pleased to see that Danum Academy has offered to do so.”