Exclusive: Private-tutor GCSE, A-level loophole closed

Exam boards have revised regulations to specify that GCSE and A-level students can't use their private tutor as a scribe

Catherine Lough

Fears have been raised that the new tougher GCSEs are leaving lower-ability students even further behind

New regulations have closed a loophole that appeared to allow GCSE and A-level candidates to use their private tutor as a scribe when sitting exams.

The change follows a Tes article highlighting the problem last month. Now regulations for exams in 2019-20, published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), have been altered to specify that candidates may not use “a relative, friend, peer or private tutor” as a scribe during exams.

Related: Calls to close private tutor GCSE and A-level loophole

Quick-read: Unreliable GCSE grades can be 'dangerous', warn heads

Insight: Need to know: Are nearly half of GCSE and A-level grades wrong?

Previously the rules did not specifically prohibit pupils from using a private tutor as their scribe, prompting fears that privileged students could use tutors to “game the system”.

Tes reported on the loophole after a private tutor claimed in a Times article that they had been paid £3,000 to help a pupil cheat during their A-level History exam by writing the answers on their behalf.

'Confidence in the exam system'

At the time, Lucy Powell, an influential Labour MP who sits on the Commons Education Select Committee, called for a review of the regulations “around using private tutors as scribes to ensure already advantaged pupils do not game the system”.

“It’s vital that we have confidence in our exam system,” she said.

Teaching unions also expressed concern, with Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, stating that while the issue “seemed to be limited to only a small number of cases, it is a loophole in the system which can, and in some rare cases is, apparently being exploited”.

Responding to news that the loophole had been closed, Ms Keates said: “JCQ appears to have acted promptly to close this loophole. While there were only a small number of cases of pupils using private tutors as scribes, it is important that there is a level playing field for all pupils when sitting exams and this anomaly had the potential to undermine confidence in the fairness of the exam system.”

A JCQ spokesperson said: “JCQ reviews its access arrangements and reasonable adjustments regulations regularly. Private tutors have always been banned from acting as scribes, and we have added them to this specific list to provide greater clarity.

“JCQ regulations are clearly laid out for centres and it is for the head of centre to appoint an appropriate person to act as a scribe in an examination. Any breach of these guidelines will be subject to sanctions.”



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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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