Runshaw College faces ‘cheating’ backlash

The incoming principal of Runshaw College, Simon Partington, with outgoing principal Kathy Passant
The incoming principal of Runshaw College, Simon Partington, with outgoing principal Kathy Passant

Runshaw College has faced a barrage of criticism from furious students and parents following last week’s exam revelations - and has now issued an apology.

The college, based on Langdale Road in Leyland, admitted that teachers had been over-preparing A-Level biology students for their end-of-year practical exams, meaning that the AQA examination board had to take drastic action.

As a consequence, the marks achieved in the Biology AS (year one) and A2 (year two) exams taken earlier in the summer will not be counted towards students’ final grades - and they will instead be awarded estimated grades, based on their performance in all the other modules of that particular course.

The college’s outgoing principal, Kathy Passant, and incoming principal, Simon Partington, have issued a joint apology to the 650 students affected by the mistake, in a letter sent out last week.

They said: “Having conducted a series of interviews with teachers and students, we are assured that there was no deliberate intention on the part of our teachers to gain an unfair advantage for our students in a public examination.

“Nevertheless, on behalf of the Biology department, we sincerely apologise for their misinterpretation of the rules.

“This has never happened before at Runshaw College in any subject area, and we will of course be taking a range of steps in 2013/14 and beyond to ensure that this can never happen again.”

The college received a 100 per cent pass rate last year, with all A-Level students discovering they had passed their exams.

The science department was also praised by Ofsted during its last inspection, with the report including a comment from students that “staff go the extra mile”.

The problems started after teachers underwent training by the AQA, in which they were advised they could run similar practical experiments in class to the ones which would be used in the actual exams.

However, the biology team ‘misinterpreted’ what they were allowed to do to prepare students for the exams, and the exam board judged that the experiments and the subsequent in-class group discussion activities gave students an unfair advantage over students in other colleges.

Discussions circulating on social networking site Twitter suggest that the error was discovered after a student from another sixth form raised the alarm with his teachers, saying that Runshaw’s students were given more information about how to prepare for the exam than he was.

The sixth form then reported the accusation to the AQA, which intervened.

Students will now have to wait for the results to be released on August 15 to see how the action has affected them.

The principals’ apology has done little to appease the anger and upset circulating around Leyland and the surrounding areas though, and hundreds of people have been commenting on the controversial issue online.

Many are worried it will affect their chances of getting into their chosen universities, with some arguing that they were relying on the final exam to boost their overall grades from the other modules.

And one former A-Level teacher believes the scandal will ruin the college’s reputation.

- To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Leyland Guardian.