There could be changes made to the computer science GCSE after it was found there has been widespread rule breaches of its non-exam assessment, says Ofqual.

The exams regulator says that a 20 hour non-exam assessment by students in computer science will no longer count towards their overall GCSE grade because of ‘widespread rule breaches’.

The regulator is now undertaking a consultation over changes to the assessment which is worth 20% of the student’s overall grade after finding that details and solutions and tasks were posted on websites and in forums. This is contrary to exam board rules, says Ofqual.

They say that these solutions have been viewed ‘thousands of times’ in a situation the exams watchdog has been aware of since September, apparently.

‘No longer possible’ for exam boards to reflect ability of students

Ofqual says that the ‘extent of the malpractice’ means it’s now ‘no longer possible’ for exam boards to reflect fairly the ability of students in their grades awarded next summer.

The project undertaken by students requires them to solve a problem that has been set by their exam board. Their report includes a program they have written but this must be their own work and completed in 20 hours under controlled conditions.

The regulator says its preferred approach is for students to sit the test but it will not be marked formally and the result will not be counted towards the student’s final grade.

Instead, to help them prepare for exams, the students will receive feedback from teachers. If the move is approved, the changes will be brought in next year so they will affect current year 10 and 11 pupils who are studying computer science with all exam boards.

The executive director for general qualifications at Ofqual, Julie Swan, said the regulator was proposing to make changes to the course that was already being studied by pupils with ‘great reluctance’.

She explained that the extent of the breach means that ‘immediate action’ is necessary for addressing issues not only with the qualifications but also over the ‘impact on public confidence’.

Deliver reliable and fairer GCSE results

She added: “We believe our preferred solution, subject to consultation responses, will deliver reliable and fairer results than would be the case otherwise. It also allows us to be confident in the standards that will be set.”

The proposals will see exam boards being required to collect formal statements from schools to confirm that pupils had been given reasonable opportunities for completing the non-examined assessment and 20 hours had been set aside for it.

The Ofqual consultation will end on December 22 and the exam watchdog says it will announce its decision in the week starting 8 January with another consultation planned before any long-term changes are introduced.