Tuesday 22 August 2017

Screengrabs of Irish Paper 2 'appeared on Facebook within an hour of exam starting'

Exam chiefs probe security breach after Irish Paper 2 posted on Facebook forum

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Exam chiefs are investigating a breach in security that led to the Leaving Certificate higher level Irish Paper 2 being posted on Facebook.

Screen grabs of the paper appeared online within an hour of about 21,500 candidates sitting down to start the three-hour exam at 9.30am yesterday.

The paper turned up on a forum hosted by teachers of Irish. It is a private social media account, known as Múinteoirí Gaeilge, to which about 3,000 teachers have access.

The premature public release of the paper could not have worked to the benefit of any student, as candidates must be in the hall within 30 minutes of the start of an exam, and the Facebook posting came after that.

Strict security surrounds the annual Leaving and Junior Certificate exams - and the State Examinations Commission (SEC) treats any breaches or suspected breaches of protocols very seriously.

An SEC spokesperson said they were satisfied that the release of the paper had not compromised the integrity of the exam.

However, the spokesperson said they were investigating the circumstances surrounding the release of the paper on to a closed social media account.

It is not known whether someone took the paper out of an exam centre, or had electronic access to it.

As well as strict limits on when candidates can enter an exam centre, there are also rules about how early they can leave. Students must stay in the hall for at least 30 minutes after the start of the exam, and any student who finishes before the scheduled time may leave only after handing in their sealed answer paper, and the exam paper.

The release of papers before the end of exams is in breach of SEC protocols for the custody of exam papers, the SEC spokesperson added.

The unauthorised release of exam papers is covered by the Education Act.

Because the Facebook posting did not compromise the integrity of the exam, there is no question of candidates having to resit the paper, which was the second of two for students of Irish higher level.

While the SEC is satisfied that there has been no damage to the integrity of the exam, the issue does highlight the growing challenge to exam security arising from the spread of social media.

The SEC will be keen to get to the bottom of the incident, at the very least to establish if it needs to put any more safeguards in place to protect the process.

Irish Independent

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