Regulation

Regulatory actions against AQA

Details of Notices to Impose Monetary Penalties on AQA, a Notice of Intention to Accept a Settlement Proposal, an Undertaking from AQA and a Letter of Concern from the Chief Regulator.

Documents

Notice of Intention to Impose a Monetary Penalty on AQA regarding Reviews of Marking

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Notice of Intention to impose a Monetary Penalty on AQA - GCE French 2018

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Letter of Concern to AQA from Ofqual's Chief Regulator - GCSE English literature 2018

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Details

Notice of Intention to impose a Monetary Penalty, Notice of Intention to accept a Settlement Proposal, and an Undertaking from AQA

In respect of AQA’s reviews of marking and moderation in 2016, 2017 and 2018

Ofqual has decided to give notice that it intends to impose a Monetary Penalty of £350,000 on AQA and accept a Settlement Proposal that AQA will compensate affected Centres in the sum of £735,750 and pay Ofqual’s reasonable costs in respect of this matter. Interested parties may make representations in respect of this Notice.

This relates to the following breaches of AQA’s Conditions of Recognition, in respect of its reviews of marking and moderation in 2016, 2017 and 2018:

  1. GCE / GCSE Condition 17.5 (a) and (b)
  2. GCE / GCSE Condition 14.5 (a) and (b)
  3. General Condition A6.1
  4. General Condition B3.1
  5. General Condition A5.2 (a) and (e)

During 2016, 2017 and 2018, AQA failed to ensure that all of its reviews of marking and moderation in respect of GCE and GCSE qualifications were carried out in their entirety by a person who had not been involved in the original marking. In some of these cases, AQA also failed to ensure that the reviews of marking and moderation were carried out by someone who had no personal interest in the outcome of the review. These failings affected an estimated 53,166 reviews of marking and moderation, in part or in whole, over a three year period. This represents around 7% of all of the reviews carried out by AQA each year. Around 93% of the affected reviews involved individual, anonymised answers that were reviewed at an item level on-screen. The remaining 7% involved reviews of whole scripts or moderation.

These failings occurred as a result of failings in AQA’s online marking system, the limited availability of reviewers in low entry qualifications and the relatively small size of some marking and review panels. However, the reviewers used in this process were AQA’s most experienced examiners who were provided with enhanced training before they undertook the reviews. The item level reviews were monitored and sampled during the review process to ensure a rigorous review was taking place.

There is no evidence to show that these failings resulted in Learners or Centres receiving the wrong outcome. However, these were serious breaches of Conditions that are integral to the effectiveness and purpose of the system of reviewing marking and moderation. The failures therefore have the potential to seriously undermine public confidence in the review of marking, moderation and appeals system, and the qualifications system more generally.

AQA failed to ensure that at all times it maintained appropriate systems of planning and internal control and retained a workforce of appropriate size and competence to enable it to take all reasonable steps to identify and manage the risks of further incidents occurring, specifically following two incidents of this nature having been drawn to its attention through appeals in 2016 and 2017. AQA also failed to notify Ofqual of the incidents in 2016 and 2017 which it had cause to believe were likely to cause an Adverse Effect.

Ofqual became aware of the issue in September 2018, through its own proactive review of AQA’s appeals process. Through this process, Ofqual discovered that some reviews of marking and moderation had been carried out by the same person who conducted the initial marking or moderation and asked AQA to investigate the issue further. This led AQA to formally notify Ofqual in November 2018 of a potential breach of its Conditions of Recognition. Since then, Ofqual has worked closely with AQA to identify the scale of the issue, to protect learners, and to make sure that AQA had put right the failings in its processes before the 2019 series.

AQA has fully admitted these breaches and has provided Ofqual with an Undertaking and Action Plan which sets out the arrangements that AQA has introduced to ensure that its reviews of marking and moderation were undertaken in full compliance with its Conditions of Recognition in 2019, and will continue to be in full compliance in future series. Ofqual is assured by the Undertaking and Action Plan that AQA’s arrangements for reviews of marking and moderation in 2019 were compliant with the Conditions. The Undertaking and Action Plan are set out in Annex B of this notice.

AQA has made a Settlement Proposal to Ofqual which offers to compensate affected Centres, pay the Monetary Penalty and pay Ofqual’s reasonable costs.

Following the publication of Ofqual’s Notices to Impose a Monetary Penalty and to recover associated costs on 29 January 2020, this Notice of Intention to Impose a Monetary Penalty has been closed.

Notice of Intention to impose a Monetary Penalty on AQA

In respect of AQA’s GCE French Examination Paper in 2018.

Ofqual has decided to give notice that it intends to impose a Monetary Penalty of £50,000 on AQA and accept a Settlement Proposal that AQA will pay Ofqual’s reasonable costs in respect of this matter. Interested parties may make representations in respect of this Notice.

This relates to AQA’s GCE French Examination Paper in 2018. AQA’s mark scheme for the paper was not fit for purpose because it did not take into account all admissible evidence or allow for the level of attainment demonstrated by some Learners to be reflected in their marks. AQA did not initially manage the incident appropriately and missed a number of opportunities to identify the risk of an Adverse Effect occurring. A small number of Learners’ university choices were initially affected but AQA was able to liaise with UCAS and the relevant universities to ensure that no Learner ultimately missed out on their university of choice.

Following the publication of Ofqual’s Notices to Impose a Monetary Penalty and to recover associated costs on 29 January 2020, this Notice of Intention to Impose a Monetary Penalty has been closed.

Letter of Concern to AQA from Ofqual’s Chief Regulator

In respect of AQA’s GCSE English Literature Examination Paper in 2018.

This relates to AQA’s failure to identify a risk of an Adverse Effect when it set a question in the examination paper that was nearly identical to a question it had used in the Specimen Assessment Materials. Whilst this raised serious concerns around AQA’s systems of planning and internal control at the time, AQA has since made significant improvements to its processes and has provided comprehensive statistical analysis which shows that there was no significant advantage or disadvantage to Learners, regardless of which question option they answered on the paper.

Published 15 October 2019
Last updated 29 January 2020 + show all updates
  1. Notices of Intention to Impose a Monetary Penalty closed following publication of final penalty notices.

  2. First published.