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Test results cancelled at 'cheating' primaries

Pressure on primary pupils to succeed in national curriculum tests has led to an increase in schools cheating to obtain good results and improve their positions in government league tables, official figures suggest.

Methods used by some teachers to improve children's marks in Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) include opening test papers beforehand and revising the topics covered, altering pupils' answers after a test, giving children extra time to finish a question, or even writing the correct answer on their exam papers.

Last year, four schools – St Charles' Roman Catholic Primary in Aigburth, Liverpool, Brockswood Primary in Hemel Hempstead, St Bernadette's RC Primary in St Albans and Springfield Community Primary in Hackney, east London – were found to have cheated and stripped of their marks in the English, maths and science tests sat by 11-year-olds. As a result, they were ranked bottom of the primary schools league table, scoring zero in each subject.

A further 14 schools had some pupils' results docked after official investigations upheld allegations of malpractice, according to a report by the National Assessment Agency (NAA), published today. In total, 602 pupils at 83 schools had their results marked down, compared with 626 pupils at 97 schools in 2006.

But the rising number of schools receiving the ultimate sanction for cheating – being stripped of all their results – confirms the huge pressure that teachers face to meet a Government target that 85 per cent of primary pupils should reach the required standard in English and maths.

Last week, The Independent reported the findings of a major international study which concluded that primary pupils in England faced unprecedented levels of pressure because they were tested more often, from an earlier age and in more subjects than children in any other country.

Today's findings from the NAA, a subsidiary of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, suggest that the Government is unlikely to meet the SAT attainment goals it set 2006.

Last summer, 80 per cent of pupils reached the required level in English, 77 per cent in maths and 88 per cent in science. This means that about 120,000 11-year-olds are still leaving primary school unable to read or write properly, and about 140,000 have difficulties with maths.