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Penalties for school exam cheating double in a year


The number of schools and colleges penalised for cheating in GCSE and A-level exams has more than doubled in the past year, according to figures released yesterday by the exams regulator Ofqual.

They show 130 were penalised for malpractice during the 2012 exam season compared with just 56 the previous year.  In most cases (119) they were given a written warning. In five cases, though, exam boards withdrew permission for the schools and colleges to act as an exam centre.

They emerge at a time when the regulator has expressed concern over a rise in the number of candidates granted extra time to finish their exams with a separate report saying Ofqual is “concerned that in some cases extra time is being given to candidates to help them improve their grades rather than to address a significant disadvantage”.

Yesterday’s figures revealed the main reasons for issuing penalties to schools were breaches of security, i.e exam papers being opened too early, or giving inappropriate assistance to candidates.

Other reasons included allowing candidates to sit the exam at the wrong time or a lack of supervision during it.

The rise was down to one of the big three exam boards, Edexcel, toughening up its procedures for dealing with allegations of malpractice and insisting on delivering written warnings to all schools and colleges found guilty opf malpractice. In the past, many had received a more informal ticking off.

Yesterday’s report also revealed a total of 2,550 students were penalised for malpractice during this year’s exams - with the largest number being for bringing mobile telephones or other electronic gadgets into the exam room.

The penalties, the report adds, varied with 728 receiving a warning, 1,279 having marks deducted and 543 being either disqualified from the unit being examined or the overall qualification.

“Candidates who bring a mobile phone into an exam room but do not have their phone at their desk might receive a warning whereas candidates found using a mobile phone during an exam might be disqualified from the unit or the qualification in that exam series,” the report added.

Other common forms of malpractice include plagiarism, copying or collusion (415 cases) and writing obscene or offensive comments on the exam paper (250).

In addition, 60 teachers were penalised - with 23 of them suspended from any further involvement in exams or assessments.  Most of these were for giving “inappropriate” assistance to candidates during the exam.

Bot the figures for the number of pupils and teachers disciplined were a decrease on the previous year - by 32 per cent and 41 per cent respectively.  The number of scripts was down by five per cent.

The statistcis also show the number of requests for candidates to be given extra time (up to 25 per cent more) went up from 122,214 to 128,744 this year.

The regulator acknowledged the increase could be down to better diagnosis of disability but warned against allowing to help candidates achieve a higher grade.

Meanwhile, Ofqual is due to deliver its final report into the crisis over the marking of GCSE English papers on Friday.

The report, which will look at the wide discrepancies in schools’ results, is expected to suggest this is down to teachers’ marking standards - with some marking the new English syllabus more harshly in controlled assessments.

Ofqual and two exam boards, Edexcel and the Oxford and Cambridge and Royal Society of Art(OCR) are facing a legal challenge after the boundaries for a C grade pass were raised for candidates sitting the exam in June.