A UK examination's regulator today indicated that it may consider a fine on an examination board over a blunder in its Shakespeare question which mixed up the two warring clans of the Bard's most popular play 'Romeo and Juliet'.
The Oxford, Cambridge and RSA (OCR) examinations board confused the Capulets and the Montagues in a question on the English literature General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) paper taken by around 14,000 teenagers.
Candidates were asked: "How does Shakespeare present the ways in which Tybalt's hatred of the Capulets influences the outcome of the play?"
Since Tybalt is Juliet's cousin and a Capulet, the question should have referred to his hatred of the Montagues.
"The Romeo and Juliet error is a unique case. It was a bad error, it was an unacceptable error," Sally Collier, chief regulator of Ofqual, told 'The Sunday Times'.
"We have been working very closely with the OCR to ensure everything possible is done to minimise the impact on student performance. I want to return to this after the summer and as a regulator I may well want to take action. I have a range of powers at my disposal. I can fine them, investigate them or direct them to take a specific action," she said.
Collier's comments come as universities and schools were warned this weekend that, despite the attempt to prevent results from plummeting, a new system could still bring chaos.
More than 200,000 sixth-formers who will get their A- level grades next week have been the guinea pigs for the new regime.
Schools are worried that results will be especially volatile because under the changes pupils are assessed almost entirely on end-of-course exams, not coursework or AS-levels, and some have been poorly prepared with no past papers and mark schemes.
Collier said she had intervened with the four exam boards to try to protect pupils from the turmoil created by the harder qualifications, which are being phased in over three years.
"In any period of reform, with teachers teaching new stuff, doing it for the first time and fewer sample materials, you would expect grades to fall but we are protecting those students," she said.
Collier admitted, however, that some pupils would still get unexpected results. She said the new exams were tough but fair and promised that any difficulties would be ironed out in the future.
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