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Teachers admit fiddling results as pupils crumble under pressure of exams

Professionalism is being compromised to meet targets, survey of teachers shows

Schoolchildren are "close to breaking point" as they struggle to keep up with extra coaching laid on to push them through exams, teachers warn today.

In a poll of more than 500 teachers, over two-thirds admitted forcing pupils to do more practice tests in the face of growing pressure to succeed.

Similar numbers are running after-school classes to prepare pupils, according to the poll by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), with others offering one-on-one coaching.

And in a picture of a profession where some members' boundaries are fraying under the pressure, several teachers surveyed admitted fiddling exam results and rewriting their pupils' homework to meet targets.

Thirty-nine per cent of those surveyed said the pressure to do well had "compromised their professionalism". One infant schoolteacher in England told the survey: "I have been forced to manipulate results so that levels of progress stay up, as our head fears [there will be] an Ofsted inspection should our results waiver. [And] I work in an infant school."

A teacher at a Northern Ireland grammar school said: "In some cases I end up virtually re-writing my students' homework to match the marking criteria, rather than teach them my subject, French. I do this because there is simply not time to do both."

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, said it was clear that the Government needed to scale down the amount of tests. "Children in the UK remain among the most tested in the world," she said. "This creates a huge pressure on young people, with many whose progress has been outstanding on a personal level feeling like failures following exam results."

One secondary school teacher in Hertfordshire said: "Revision classes for year 11 (GCSE students) are getting out of hand, with departments competing to offer as many as possible."

Others warned that younger children were also feeling the strain.

One primary school teacher said: "My son really felt the pressure of SATs – he stopped eating, his sleep was disturbed and he told me about butterflies in his stomach. He was six."

The poll found that almost three-quarters of teachers feel under a lot of pressure to get pupils through tests and exams, with 70.6 per cent saying this had increased in the past two years.

One in four teachers also admitted going to exam board seminars to try and pick up hints from examiners about the questions their pupils will face. One respondent said: "I know of one exam meeting where it was strongly hinted which topics would come up. I was glad my school was there but I felt sorry for those that were not." Ofqual, the exams watchdog, has been ordered by the Education Secretary Michael Gove to conduct an inquiry after The Daily Telegraph alleged the passing on of tips at seminars was widespread.

In all, 70 per cent said there was more pressure to achieve better exam results than two years ago. Asked what the reason for the increased pressure was, they commonly cited pressure from school management (88 per cent). Concern about the results of inspections by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, was also a key reason.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "All the leading education systems in the world have robust testing and inspections. The taxpayer would rightly be asking questions if they couldn't judge how well schools are doing."