Exams watchdog reveals GCSE coursework cheating

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The Independent Online

Parents, pupils and teachers are accused of cheating in GCSE coursework in a study published by the Government's exams watchdog.

The potential for plagiarism in qualifications from GCSE to university degrees is now uncontrollable, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority reveals.

Its investigations show that there are at least 10 websites offering rip-off answers to coursework in every subject from GCSE to degree level - prompting the Government to order an urgent review of the amount of coursework.

"Coursework assignments are available on the internet at any level and in any subject," the report adds. "With so much work being completed outside school, the use of such sites cannot be controlled.

"In interviews many candidates affirmed their awareness of websites offering coursework and some admitted trying to download coursework."

A survey revealed that 93 per cent of pupils had access to the internet at home, and therefore could link to the websites. In addition, the report says, many parents are unaware of the limits to the amount of help they can give their children with coursework, and in some cases are supplying the answers to questions. One in 20 actually drafted their children's GCSE essays.

Teachers also sometimes give their classes too much help, resulting in "coursework cloning", the report adds. It reveals there were 3,500 cases of malpractice by students in exams last year, although it says that cases of collusion between students out of school still outnumber internet plagiarism by three to one.

Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Education, in a letter to Dr Ken Boston, the chief executive of the QCA, says coursework should only be used when it is "the most valid way of assessing subject specific skills". She calls for "robust" checking to detect whether pupils are cheating. "It is fundamental ... to sustain public confidence in our national qualifications," she adds.

The report has prompted the QCA to set up a task force to strengthen authentication of coursework before next summer's exams. It is to be led by Sue Kirkham, the president of the Secondary Heads Association.