Exam grades are doctored to meet targets, admit teachers


Richard Garner
Wednesday 07 September 2011 00:00 BST

Teachers have admitted falsifying pupils' marks to meet targets set for them by heads. Research published today says many are afraid of receiving a "carpeting" from their superiors for failing to meet the targets and that results were being manipulated to make schools look better.

Three separate small-scale papers, due to be presented at the British Educational Research Association's annual conference in London this week, reveal that teachers are altering judgements due to pressure from senior school staff or local councils.

"Management are telling teachers that pupils should be achieving at a certain level and some teachers are then feeling forced into saying that they have achieved it, whether or not this is appropriate," said Professor Martin Fautley, of Birmingham City University, the author behind the research.

Music was one area where teachers admitted falsifying marks. Teachers were asked if they were allowed to use their "professional discretion" to award pupils a particular grade in music or whether they were required by department heads to show evidence their pupils were making the progress expected of them.

One said: "We get told to increase them [the grades]. This is directed by the headteacher – but nothing is ever in writing. As long as we can show that every child is improving by the levels, then that is sufficient – whether they have or not."

Another added: "I thought I was free to use my professional discretion but at the end of the key stage was told to change the levels to meet the percentage target."

In a separate study by London University's Institute of Education, evidence emerged of teachers simply making up pupils' marks in science so their schools could achieve targets. One of the two schools that admitted the practice had been judged "outstanding" by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog. The other was classified as "good".

Pupils had been steered towards a "GCSE-equivalent" Btec science course worth two A* to C grade passes for league table purposes, because they were not deemed capable of gaining C grade passes in their GCSEs.

The study also revealed that the "good" school arranged to have its more disruptive pupils based off-site on field trips during the Ofsted inspection.

In a third paper, teachers admitted altering the marks given to five-year-olds as part of the early years profile they prepared on each child. This assesses their capabilities across a range of measures and gives schools information that helps them check how much progress pupils make as they go through primary school.

Dr Alice Bradbury, of Roehampton University, said one teacher had been encouraged by senior management at an inner-city school to reduce the results of lower-ability children because their progress was "unrealistic".

This had the effect of making the school look as if it had made more progress with them when it came to their national curriculum tests at 11.

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