Investigation begins into how Leaving Cert paper was posted on Facebook

Images of paper posted to Facebook group for teachers shortly after exam began

The State Examinations Commission is investigating the publication of a Leaving Cert paper on a Facebook page. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill

The State Examinations Commission is investigating the publication of a Leaving Cert paper on a Facebook page. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) has launched an investigation into how a Leaving Cert paper was posted online shortly after the exam got under way on Tuesday morning.

Images of the higher level Irish paper were posted on a Facebook page for Irish teachers which is used by just over 3,200 members.

A spokesman for SEC said it had been posted after students received their papers, posing no risk to the integrity of the exam.

However, he said the commission was keen to get to the bottom of how the paper was shared online.

Under official rules, no candidate is authorised to leave the exam hall until 30 minutes after the exams begin.

Anyone who does is required to hand their answer book and question paper to the exam superintendent.

This morning’s Leaving Cert Irish higher level paper two exam began at 9.30 am.

Images of the paper were posted on to the page less than an hour later, according to members.

The Facebook group page is visible only to members of the group, and it was taken down several hours later, according to one teacher.

The group where the paper appeared – “Múinteoirí Gaeilge ag roinnt cabhrach, acmhainní, agus smaointí”, Irish teachers sharing help, resources and ideas – has 3,206 members and is used by primary and post-primary teachers.

The apparent security breach is a reminder of the dangers posed by social media in cases in maintaining secrecry around exams where there have been breaches of rules or procedures.

In a statement, the State Examinations Commission said: “As candidates are not allowed enter examination centres after the first 30 minutes of an examination, the SEC is satisfied that the release of the paper after the start of the examination has not compromised the integrity of the examination.

“The SEC is investigating the circumstances surrounding the issue as the release of examination papers before the end of examinations is in breach of SEC protocol for the custody of examination papers,” it added.

One member of the Facebook group who asked to remain anonymous suggested the paper may have been innocently produced by a student who left the exam early and passed it to a teacher, who may not have been aware of the SEC regulations.

Another possibility, according to another teacher who is a member of the group, is a teacher who was also an exam supervisor posted a photo of the exam online to share with other teachers.

This would raise much more serious issues over the access to social media by exam supervisors.

The apparent security breach is minor compared to major incidents which have occurred in the past.

In 2009, for example, the English Leaving Cert exam was postponed and rescheduled to a Saturday after an exam superintendent in Drogheda accidentally handed out the paper 24 hours early.

It meant students at the school had a preview of which poets were coming up, information which quickly spread across the country

Well-placed sources say there is no chance that Tuesday’s Irish paper will be re-scheduled due to the Facebook incident given that the integrity of the exam was protected.