Students do not trust exam officers with their mobile phones, the exams regulator boss suggests.
Sally Collier, chief regulator of Ofqual, says GCSE and A-level students are not handing over their phones before exams as they are worried that their devices will be misplaced or damaged.
Ofqual is encouraging schools to look at how they can reassure pupils that their phones will be safe.
The letter – which has been sent to schools and colleges ahead of GCSEs and A levels this summer – follows a rise in the number of students caught with their mobile phones during exams.
The number of penalties given to students for cheating in GCSE and A-level exams rose by a quarter last year – and most of them were penalised for smuggling mobile phones into exam halls.
The Ofqual figures, which were released earlier this year, found that 2,715 penalties were issued to students last summer, up from 2,180 the year before.
In a new letter to schools and colleges, Ms Collier wrote: “It is clearly important that candidates do not have access to mobile phones during exams.
“We have seen an increase in the number of students being issued with a penalty for breaching the rules, albeit that they might not have intended to use their phone during the exam.
“We have asked students why this is happening and some have told us they are unwilling to hand in their phones in case they are lost or damaged.
“We are encouraging centres to reflect on how they can best assure their students their phones will be safe and that students understand the risk of being found with a phone during an exam.”
Ms Collier also raised concerns about students not being properly supervised during exam clashes which she said had created “opportunities for exam security to be breached”.
In the letter, the chief regulator wrote: “Most exams go to plan, and most schools will have an event-free exam series. We want this to be the case for you this summer.
“But sometimes things go wrong, which cause avoidable distress and lead to penalties for students and even teachers.”
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