Police investigating high-profile leaks of Edexcel A-level exam papers in 2017 and 2018 have passed their first case to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Pearson, the exam board’s parent company, has announced today that officers “have made progress in their investigation” from the first “limited” breach in 2017, and have referred their first case to prosecutors.
The 2017 case involved copies of the Edexcel maths A-level paper being offered for sale online, in a move branded “grossly unfair to all other students” by Pearson president Rod Bristow at the time.
However, Pearson said at the time the content “contained no precise details about specific questions and we do not believe any student has been advantaged”.
The following year, the police and regulator Ofqual were informed after commentators on social media alleged a maths exam paper had been widely leaked, with “hundreds” of college students potentially seeing questions a day in advance.
A second investigation into the 2018 leak is being finalised, and Pearson said it hopes they will send materials about that incident to the CPS “soon”.
At the time of the leaks, the tweets appeared to show a WhatsApp group sharing the first question of the paper.
@Edexcel. The C4 maths paper 2018 was leaked. This is not fair on the students who actually revised for this exam without knowing the paper. What are you going to do about it!? pic.twitter.com/VRCPWJcjf3
— nnick (@nnick25226889) June 22, 2018
The company said both incidents “were caused by individuals deliberately setting out to subvert our controls”.
Minutes from an Ofqual board meeting in September 2018 said: “We have evidence that a very small number of students had access to the A level Maths C4 paper (6666/01) ahead of the exam sat on Friday 22 June. Following the examination, we were alerted to the apparent sale of images of questions from the paper in the early hours of the day via two closed social media applications.
“There is no evidence to show that they were publicly available before the examination, but after the paper had been sat individuals posted images of the sharing of the secure content on publicly accessible platforms.”
The minutes added that as a result of their investigation, Ofqual had “identified one individual as the source of the breach, who has been debarred from any involvement with Pearson examinations for life”.
“We have disqualified five students and are currently investigating a further 30 with regards to their involvement,” it added.
In a letter to colleges today, Pearson said: “Whilst we are confident that the extent of the breach was limited to a very small number of candidates, we know these incidents impacted public confidence.
“We have continued to support the police in their investigations, but due to the complexity and unusual nature of these cases, it has taken time to investigate. The police informed us that in February, they referred the first case to the Crown Prosecution Service with the aim of bringing charges against those arrested.
“The individuals responsible for these incidents are therefore now being held to account for the disruption that they caused.”