back to article Exam board to hear appeal over format cockup

An IT class at a school in Lincolnshire will be allowed to appeal after failing their diploma because they submitted their work in the wrong formats, including Microsoft Word. Exam board Edexcel said today that it had agreed with Cotelands School that the 29 students affected by would be allowed to appeal. They will resubmit …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Stu


    Surely if they left hyperlinks to documents on the school's servers, they should just be failed, as they clearly know less than nothing about IT...?

  2. john loader

    But what format did they want

    The mystery is just what format do they want it in? Is this another case of Office 2007 problems?

  3. David Neil

    now it makes sense

    So following the hysteria yesterday, it now appears that the school, which was already having to merge with another due to p!ss poor performance, is the one to blame.

    I wonder just what will happen to the teacher in this case? I know up here in sunny (but bloody cold) Scotland a teacher was struck off for professional incompetance -

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Kenny Swan

    Title required

    My irony meter is off the chart that something as simple as word processor document caused such a f**k-up between IT students, an IT school and IT examinators. It's too much, it really. They all fail, really.

  6. James Pickett


    "using Word format inappropriately"

    How do you do that then? Sounds like the school were using more up-to-date software than Edexhell...

  7. darkmooink
    IT Angle

    they got what was coming to them

    "e-portfolios with links to documents that remained inaccessible on the school's internal servers"

    they deserve to fail! one of the first things i was taught at school was about relative and absolute file linking.

  8. Gordon Grant

    What no word reader

    I looked at the list of installed items on the examiners computers and thought it rather strange no word viewer, I mean you could just simply ignore all macro code or make it a requirement no macro's to be included in submitted work, having to submitted as a pdf is technically a bind but then again maybe they should use something smart like open office which automatically includes a "save as pdf" option just goes to show what can happen, also before it was submitted surely the links to internal files on the server should have been resolved and the files included or at least had the e-folio checked over by the teacher, they do still have those in schools don't they it's not just pupils in front of screens teaching themselves is it....

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Those that can't... teach....

    I used to teach DiDA before going back to industry after becoming increasingly sick of fighting against the stupidity of it all - it CLEARLY states in all of the documentation that work has to be submitted in PDF format onto the eLearning system.

    It strikes of incompetence on the part of the teaching staff that pupils were allowed to upload in other formats - part of the course is aimed at saving the work in PDF format during the lab work and then uploading towards the end of each module.

    On every course I went on regarding AiDA, DiDA and CiDA, it was reinforced that you had to have PDF generation utilities to submit the work in a platform independent format - and this was to be addressed in the first few labs.

    The school and the IT department should be held accountable for not checking and following up on this sooner. In my previous jobs I was accountable for ensuring that all pupils submitted work in the correct format, it's a simple two minute task at the end of a lab.

  10. Rat

    School cocks up and students suffer

    Nothing in that article explains to me why the students are being made to pay for what is clearly an administrative cockup by the school.

  11. Robert Grant


    "they deserve to fail! one of the first things i was taught at school was about relative and absolute file linking."

    Hopefully they also taught you that regardless of which of those you use, you also need to copy in the files being linked to, which was the real problem.

  12. AListair

    the list is ambiguous

    as it says the examiners will have this

    microsoft office compatability pack

    which is an upgrade to office...

    as someone who receives CVs in word format i kinda side with the examiners..

  13. Whitter

    Dafties in IT

    I bet the fonts weren't standard or embedded either.

  14. Killian


    "It's almost part of the test to be able to save in the correct format"

    So it isn't, then?

  15. glenn


    How can the allowed software for the moderators include MS Excel Viewer 2k3, but not MS Word Viewer (2k7 version which will deal with .docx files) ?

    I thought that .xls was also a Microsoft proprietary format, if so it looks like Edexcel are being just a tad inconsistent in refusing documents saved as Word format, but accepting spreadsheets in Excel format.

  16. Fluffykins Silver badge

    Fail ^n

    "Moderators have been instructed not to open any *.exe applications"

    so, .com , .msi, .bat, etc., etc., are OK, then?

    Maybe it's time for the BOFH to wander into Edexcel (Edfail?) with a fully charged cattleprod and the PFY after a particularly turbulent affaire of the heart.

    Lego renactment please

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Common sense needed.

    If you were marking the work you would be dumb not to notice that all submissions from a certain school were in the wrong format and that all links didn't go somewhere. Would you flag it up as something going wrong with the system and not that the students were thick.


  18. Anonymous Coward

    Quite clear really

    Neither the school, nor the examining body understands what they're teaching and testing. Poor kids, studying is bad enough but under these conditions.... The only allowable doc format is .pdf - no rtf even.... Wouldn't survive a day in a customer facing environment. Or do these people class html as a document format? That would be strange indeed...

    I wonder what the qualification is really worth - .zip probably, but that's also an unsupported format.....

  19. Mike

    Re: What no word reader

    But they have got the MS Compatibility pack..... which is only usable with MS Office, and as Office isn't on the list it's pointless, notwithstanding *somebody* wasn't paying attention.

  20. David Hicks

    Got to pity those kids

    it sounds to me like the teacher not only didn't read the format rules but was stunningly incompetent and should be looking for employment in another field.

    Linking back to material stored on an inaccessible intranet server?

    it boggles the mind.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I think the point is not whether or not it's possible to read the word document, but that they failed to follow what were presumably clear instructions! There is no facility for submitting in word format, so they shouldn't have done. Full-stop.

    The amount of students at degree level I find who are incapable of following instructions, but very capable of moaning when they get marked down for it, is depressingly large.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not surprised

    When I took my ITIL exam, a bloke came into the room with some "British Computer Society" pencils and we had to fill in little boxes on bits of paper. I haven't done that since 1988.

  23. Lawrence

    Why not word

    OK, the links to local resources is inexcusable but why are edexcel not accepting word. Lets face it, kids are very likely to be required to use it in the work place. What's more, .ppt is in the list!

  24. Danny

    plainly daft

    The examiners computers can't read a .txt file ? What sort sort of a computer can't read plain text ?

    When an incompetent teacher missubmits or misinstructs a class, why was the first reaction to call the class failures ?

  25. Kradorex Xeron


    They mention "Excel"/"xls" AND "PowerPoint"/"ppt" in their list, surely they should accept something else created by MS Office. This is just ludicrous nitpicking by Edexcel.

    Sure, I could see not accepting something created by a word processor nobody's heard of but in this case, it's a mainstream format utilized by hundreds of businesses, schoolboards, universities, colleges and other organizations.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    every kid should have a computer

    ... but not have the ability to do anything with it that resembles following instructions.

    This was an exam / qualification, more due care was needed especially regarding the linking, which is a major failure in my view.

    Imagine telling your client that the system you install for them does not work as most of the included files are on your dev server with hard links.

    Fail for the school and fail for kids... otherwise we will continue to have IT illiterate numpties who can't spell coming into the work place.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Acceptable formats hardly acceptable....

    The so-called acceptable formats are a complete nonsense. The bias towards Microsoft is totally unacceptable. Why are there no alternative options? This brilliantly exposes the dangers of using proprietary formats rather than open standards such as Open Document Format.

    Of course we should also mention the vast cost-savings that could be achieved if the education system would only see the light and adopt open-source, often free, operating-systems and applications. Goodness, even the students might benefit too !

  28. Anonymous Coward


    why do they have "Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack" installed but no Microsoft Office!!!!

  29. JCL


    hmm, so they could submit excel spreadsheets and powerpoint presentations, but not word documents. Why would that be?

  30. Nick
    Thumb Down


    Perhaps the teachers need to take that course as well? Sounds like they haven't got a clue, especially with the bit about links to documents stored on local servers.

    Those who can't, teach?

    (Oh, and I can say that, given that 2 of my direct family are qualified teachers!).

  31. Anonymous Coward

    should have used open source

    Should have used open office. However if they were told the required format and didn't use it then they should fail and as for the schools mistake, makes you wonder at the competency of the teaching.

  32. Paul Kelly

    Point-missing on a vast scale

    Can all the people posting comments along the lines of "There's no excuse for Edexcel not accepting Word .doc files, they're so common and everyone uses MS these days" try to hang on to the point that the course requirements specifically state that portfolios have to be submitted as a .pdf?

    The school submitted portfolios that didn't meet the stated requirements of the course and didn't contain all the necessary files to display properly; as a result, they were all marked down. What else should Edexcel have done? The teacher, and the school more generally, are the ones at fault here. They failed in their duty towards their students and buggered up everyone's work. It has nothing to do with whether Edexcel's computers have Office installed or not.

  33. xjy
    Paris Hilton


    The kids should go on the rampage the way the Greek kids are doing now. Bloody Lincolnshire. Now if they'd tried this bollocks in Brixton or Liverpool or Glasgow - fireworks! Or do like the public school oiks in If and shoot up the place with semi-automatics. Educellhell should be paraded around somewhere interested in educational values like Boro north of the tracks in dunces hats and placards saying "I hate jobless yoof" (like Bruce Willis in one of the Die Hards). The school management too. Leave the teaches alone - it's a miracle any of them stay in the job at all (a mate of mine cut a deal once - half the period telling jokes, the other half doing maths. Another mate turned his back on the little loves to write something on the blackboard and got half a motorbike engine chucked at his head...).

    Enough. Word...

    An education system thick as pigshit and twice as clarty.

    (Paris cos she would hire someone to make mincemeat of them to feed to her bitches.)

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Failing not a bad option?

    Some people (not all) seem to be concentrating on the school and their liability, but if you're in IT, shouldn't you have at least a *small* clue about hyperlinks inside a private network? As in, "if this document leaves the building, my links go bye-bye" kind of knowledge?

    Maybe that should be part of the test (smirk)

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who the hell made the upload program?

    And why does it allow files that arn't considered correct for the exam board to be uploaded in the first place.

  36. robbie


    Even Linux lovers can do .doc files. Were there many Java 3D submissions this year? And no .txt content? PDF is a proprietary format - the reader's free but Acrobat certainly isn't. And spare a thought for those poor Mediator 7 users. It's a miracle only one school failed on this.

    @AC 13:45 - Looks like you didn't check the guidance either - more than pdf is acceptable.

    Some of this row is about standards and consistency, and that list of file formats is anything but. The old Department of Education (or whichever of many several forgettable acronyms they'd like to use) offer techie help on their web site @ for people having trouble with .doc files, including a link to M$. Pity no-one found it.

    These poor kids had no chance, with clots at the school and the Edexcel universal fail translation service waiting in the wings.

  37. Daniel Bennett
    Paris Hilton

    Oh please.... this is obvious why doc/docx isnt allowed

    Doc/Docx are editable with ease.

    The exam board say PDF so that it lowers the risk of it being edited after the submission date.


    Paris, because you can edit her easily.

  38. Dave

    Re: Office Compatibility Pack

    It's not just for office. You can download it for the viewers so that they can open the 2007 formats. See here:

    I believe with a patch Works 9 will also use the compatibility pack as well.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Gordon Grant

    Only someone using Office on Windows could be moronic enough to state that creating a PDF is "technically a bind" - it isn't and is as trivial as saving or printing for those of us who are not slaves to the MS ecosystem. With respect to the comments about Word being a standard in industry... That it may well be, but I can guarantee you as someone working for the worlds largest publisher, if you send us a .docx file, you are not going to have any joy whatsoever trying to get us to accept it. It would require IT to install and test either 1. the compatibility plug-ins for Office 2003 or 2. install Office 2007 business-wide. Neither of which is going to happen this decade. The .doc format is not the standard you are making it out to be.

  40. Psycho Flump
    Thumb Down


    Seems like the teacher responsible needs to go back to school. I'm not surprised by this though, I've seen questions / info on some younger family members IT homework that were completely wrong. You then get the kid saying that that's what they've been taught so they repeat the misinformation to get the marks. No wonder 80%+ of the population struggle with simple computer-related things, it's a vicious circle of stupidity.

  41. censored

    Only Dave has seen the point...

    doc files can be edited by the examiner, so it's impossible to guarantee what was submitted is exactly what was opened and marked. There'd be no way to appeal or prove the mark is correct.

    The Excel and Powerpoint packages listed are VIEWERS ONLY, so files submitted can't be altered. There is no Word viewer, so they've gone for pdf. The examiner will have a pdf viewer and not an editor.

  42. Pierre

    Desserved fail

    Do not follow the instructions -> fail

    How difficult is it to understand?

    And NO, the compatibility pack DOESN'T mean -or even imply- that they can open MSWord document. They do accept .ppt and .xls files (for some strange reason), and that's why they have the compat pack. Not accepting MSWord formats is a good thing, especially as it's never been intended as a printout format (not to mention, you know, them being an ugly swarm of incompatible crappy formats very prone to virus infection). HTML and PDF are much more sensible choices (fonts should be embedded, too). And, guess what? They do accept both.

    @ all the blah blah blah "de facto industry standard" blah blah blah sheeple, 2 things: firstly, MSWord formats are widely used because lots of people only accept that (and not the contrary), so if people actually start to request other, more sensible formats, no-one will use .doc or.docx anymore. Problem solved. Secondly, if I love Japan and plan to go get my Edexcel-approved skills to good use in, say, Tokyo, am I allowed to hand my work in Japanese? After all, that's what I will use in my work environment, so shurely Edexcel should accept it! Or not?

  43. Paul McConkey
    Paris Hilton

    Who else has a kid doing GCSE ICT?

    I have one and the course is pretty pathetic in that it seems to be more of a training exercise in Word, Excel, Powerpoint and MS Moviemaker (or whatever it's called) and web searching. Why don't they teach them something useful like assembler?

    No wonder the country is going to the dogs.

    Paris because with her movie making skills she ought to be able to walk through a GCSE ICT exam.

  44. Daniel B.

    Re: Oh please.... this is obvious why doc/docx isnt allowed

    I'm pretty surprised at all those people who bitch and moan about doc(x) not being allowed, and not realizing the actual reason to do this!

    Plus, PDF supports digital signatures since Acrobat 4.0 at least, so if they use that as well, they can also protect the PDF against tampering by the more tech-savvy students.

  45. Paul McConkey

    @ Daniel Bennett

    "The exam board say PDF so that it lowers the risk of it being edited after the submission date."

    You know this or you are bullshitting?

    Why are other editable formats allowed (ppt, excel, etc.)?

  46. Anonymous Coward

    WordPerfect 5.1

    ... for DOS.

    Brilliant WP still use it. No one has problems opening its files in Word or any other “modern” word-processor.

    <dies laughing>

  47. Andrew Macrobie


    It seems to me that common sense is neither required nor prevalent in the modern "education" system - spending any time with Academics (particularly those in "higher" education) only serves to reinforce that belief.

    Once again we're demonstrating what happens when people are scored on effort rather than results.

  48. Ed Prigmore

    Re-submit with no changes?

    But how will EdeXel know if there have been changes? They can't read the original documents in Word format so they won't be able to check!

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wintards out in droves...

    This thread exposes the complete absence of any knowledge that so many Wintards have:

    1. PDFs are not "technically a bind" to produce for anyone who is not tied to the MS teat - only someone who has never used anything other than Windows and Office could possibly write that - it is a mere matter of saving or printing a file for those of us who are not hobbled by ignorance and a shite platform or office suite.

    2. PDF is an open standard and not proprietary (and unlike OOXML, Adobe didn't have to bribe or bully anyone into making it that way). Any PDF creation software can be used, and any PDF reader can be used. You don't have to go anywhere near Adobe's products to do either.

    3. If you think Word format files are a standard in industry, you are seriously deluding yourself. Try sending a .docx file to someone at my company (the worlds biggest publisher) and you will have a sorry time trying to persuade us to accept it. The cost of supporting it is not something the company is willing to bear as it would either mean installing and testing the compatibility component for Office 2003 or switching the entire user base of several tens of thousands of employees to Office 2007. Neither of those will happen this decade or for the first half of the next.

    4. We can take Word .doc files in business (sadly) because it is not critical that the characters, fonts and layout are precisely the same as when the person created them (if those things are critical, the very last thing you want is a fricking Word file). That cannot be said for a document submitted for an exam (e.g. what if there are meant to be mathematical symbols present but the version of Word on the receiving end is unable to display them due to a missing or incompatible font or a platform specific issue?).

    5. Saving something in a particular format just because "this is what industry does" is not teaching someone how to use (a) their brain or (b) their computer. In fact it is teaching them the opposite.


  50. Pierre

    @ Andrew Macrobie

    "Once again we're demonstrating what happens when people are scored on effort rather than results."

    How is that? They were scored based on results. More specifically, they were scored based on the *absence* of result (a significant part of the work not being available to the examiners). Hey teacher, here is my homework, it's printed on transparent weightless paper using invisible ink! Can I have an A+++ please?

    Also, if DiDA qualifies as"Academics" or "higher education" for you, I understand why you failed to get the point.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linked content on local servers

    This is incredibly easy to do accidentally in Word. I made a report in html (because it was trivially easy to auto-generate that way) then loaded it in Word and saved as .doc only to discover that it wasn't saving the images in the file and needed them in the exact same folder to display properly on another computer. When I converted it to pdf no problem.

  52. Anonymous Coward


    Umm you can lock .doc and .docx files as well to prevent editing not that hard to do. As for .pdf being immune fine arguement as long as you explin why they allow .ppt and .xls files which are editable. Stop talking through your mouth and admit to being a troll. This school is just idiotic and if you had taken time to look through the "approved" list you would have seen that too.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Class Action anyone?

    Sue them all, including the examiners!

  54. Kanhef


    On one hand, the students and instructor should have checked which formats are accepted and made sure they used the right ones. On the other hand, the examiners should have told them about the problem instead of just failing everyone. A good upload system blocks unacceptable formats, but these would have been sent in a single archive or mailed on CD. Looking at previous years' entries (under "Getting the standard right") shows that they are major projects with multiple resources, including a web site. That can't reasonably be submitted through a form in a browser.

    re @censored:

    Locking a file is easy. So is unlocking the file. Locking a file such that anyone can read it, but no one can unlock it, even when copied to other computers possibly running different operating systems, is not at all easy. If you actually read past the first sentence, you'd see that they have *programs* that can read but not modify .ppt and .xls files, even if the file itself is editable. There is no program that can read but not edit .doc files, so they cannot guarantee the integrity of .doc files, thus they can not accept .doc files.

    censored has it exactly right. The list looks strange and arbitrary at first, but they're actually limited by what *viewer* apps exist, and those determine what file formats they can use. Hence Acrobat Reader, Excel/Powerpoint/Mediator/Openmind Viewers, rather than the full version. There are no programs that can only read text files, so no .doc, .txt, .rtf, etc.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ..."There is no Word viewer"...

    Ummm, what's this then?

    To quote from the link "View, print and copy Word documents, even if you don't have Word installed. This download is a replacement for Word 97 Viewer and all previous Word Viewer versions."

  56. censored

    @AC - I DID read the list...

    And if you had too, you'd see the examiner only has xls and ppt VIEWERS.

    The point is not that they can or can't be edited by anyone, but that they cannot be changed by the examiner. The files will leave the students, then only put onto a machine that is not capable of editing them. No-one else sees them. Then there can be no suggestion of foul play.

  57. Zippy's Sausage Factory


    ...under current government policy schools have been required to use OpenDocument formats since 2005, yet EdExcel still accepts MS Office? Deep fail, me thinks...

  58. Keith Langmead

    Re: Daniel Bennett & Pierre (and a couple of others)

    Thanks guys, I was beginning to lose hope of intelligence anywhere in this thread!

    Completely agree with the points made about the documents not being editable, however everyone seems to have missed another major reason for not allowing word docs.

    When transferring a word document from one machine to another you cannot be certain how it will render. Depending on how the original machine is configured, how the viewing machine is configured, which fonts are loaded on each, the default paper sizes, borders etc, will make a difference on how the document looks on the viewing machine. Assuming at least some of the marks for this work are for presentation, how can the examiner be certain that what they are seeing on their screen is what the student intended to present? If the student creates a document which is well laid out and presented, but it doesn't render properly on the examiners machine, should that student be marked down for it?

    One of the main benefits of PDF (other than the difficulty of altering it), is that the way it always renders the same on all machines, so you can be certain that if it looks correct on your machine when you create it, it will still look the same when it is marked.

  59. Andrew Macrobie
    Thumb Down


    "How is that? They were scored based on results. More specifically, they were scored based on the *absence* of result (a significant part of the work not being available to the examiners). Hey teacher, here is my homework, it's printed on transparent weightless paper using invisible ink! Can I have an A+++ please?"

    Because students are "educated" in a system where there are few boundaries and no strict guidelines. Instead of getting knocked back when they fail or do something stupid (and have them learn from their mistakes) the mentality of "Never mind, it's the effort that counts" becomes the norm for them. I double and triple check every piece of work and documentation I send out knowing it will be scrutinised to the n'th degree - this is basic common sense not to mention bloody good practice.

    "Also, if DiDA qualifies as"Academics" or "higher education" for you, I understand why you failed to get the point."

    Oh dear; I think I'd give that comment a "3/10 must try harder".

    The people who lecture these students have been through higher education, almost certainly to degree level and they failed to demonstrate the level of care and sense common among people who live and work outside of education.

    It's simply unwise and unfair to entirely blame the students for this fiasco, at least 50% of the blame lays with their lecturers for not making them understand the course requirements and for allowing them to submit their work in this format.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IT Training is such a joke

    they just don't have a clue, it is the blind leading the blind, there are no one eyes when it comes to IT training, and they do far more harm than any good.

    We need more carpenters, plumbers, farmers, mechanics, builders, not one more idiot behind a mouse, pointing and clicking the economy into depression.

  61. Darren Forster
    Thumb Down

    Maybe they should use OpenOffice next year...

    Maybe next year instead of giving over thousands of pounds of school money to Microsoft for Office and have the work produced in the wrong format they should use OpenOffice and submit it all in PDF. At least in PDF there is no way any of the work could be intentionally altered.

    It is laughable though that firstly Edexel aren't able to read the most common document format in the world, and even more funny is the fact that they are not allowed to contact the school in the case of such a major mess up. Surely if they were allowed to contact the school after realising the blunder this could have easily been rectified without all the red tape of going through the appeals process, all the students getting told they've failed, and then all having to have their work re-assessed, all of which is wasting time for these students. It's not too bad at the moment as they're probably not going off to college, but if this had happened in the summer exams some of these students might have missed out on college places due to Edexel's incompetence.

  62. Pierre

    Re: Pierre (Andrew M)

    "Because students are "educated" in a system where there are few boundaries and no strict guidelines. Instead of getting knocked back when they fail or do something stupid"

    Well, this time they were, weren't they? So it's indeed *not* "demonstrating what happens when people are scored on effort rather than results."

    "The people who lecture these students have been through higher education, almost certainly to degree level and they failed to demonstrate the level of care and sense common among people who live and work outside of education."

    Switch the telly on. Zap around. Say that again with a straight face. Also, the fact that the teacher involved might have been to Uni at some point (which is pure supposition from your part) doesn't make it part of "the Academics" -or of the "higher education" system, for that matter.

    I know that The -commie- Education is usually an easy target, but you missed it completely. Equip flail.

  63. Pierre

    @ Andrew Macrobie

    "It's simply unwise and unfair to entirely blame the students for this fiasco, at least 50% of the blame lays with their lecturers for not making them understand the course requirements and for allowing them to submit their work in this format."

    The prof. is probably partly responsible, but are you saying that the students should be pampered to the point where they don't have to bother about anything (the teacher will take care of everything)? Are you suggesting that they should have passed because the teacher let them behave stupidly? Apparently, people in "the education" have more common sense than that.

    Also, this part of you comment is in direct contradiction with your immediately preceding paragraphs. Equip flail, part 2.

  64. James Shields


    If the goal is to have documents that cannot be edited, then the docs should be printed and submitted. Hardcopy. Otherwise, anything can be edited.

    If the goal is to make it reasonably hard to make changes so that the vast majority won't try ... just require everything to be submitted as PDF. Or, if it's a presentation, as some kind of movie file.

    Otherwise, you end up with this kind of confusion. And, honestly, not being able to open the most common document format on the planet seems rather lame.

This topic is closed for new posts.