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Proven cases of qualifications 'malpractice' soar

Scotland’s exam body warns that ‘any kind of malpractice is totally unacceptable’ as cases almost treble in just a year

Proven cases of qualifications 'malpractice' soars

Scotland’s exam body warns that ‘any kind of malpractice is totally unacceptable’ as cases almost treble in just a year

The number of cases of malpractice recorded by Scotland's national exams body has almost trebled in just a year, according to new figures published today.

And in the two years between 2016 and 2018, the number of proven cases of malpractice in relation to Scottish qualifications increased almost eightfold. Last year there were 143 cases of malpractice in Scottish schools and colleges, up on 51 in 2017 and just 18 in 2016.

Malpractice can include teachers completing assessment work on behalf of learners or giving pupils too much support.

According to the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), last year the most prevalent issue was that assessment conditions were not being applied: pupils were getting support when they were meant to be working independently, were being given access to additional resources or were being allowed to sit an assessment more than the permitted number of times.

In 2017, there were just five of these incidents, but that number rose to 72 incidents last year.


Background: More Scottish teachers and pupils are cheating in exams, new figures suggest

Opinion: Passes are being handed out like sweeties’

Q&A: Rise in malpractice linked to pressure on teachers


The SQA figures reveal that the second most prevalent type of malpractice was pupils receiving too much direction from teachers. Last year there were 34 of these cases recorded; this year there were 51.

Cheating in exams on the rise

There were also 13 cases of “failure of administrative systems for assessment and certification”; five cases of “internal assessment not in line with standards”; and one “other security breach”.

The SQA said that concerns that assessment standards may not be applied consistently could put the value of qualifications at risk and negate the hard work of learners.

SQA chief executive Janet Brown said: “SQA has a duty, in the interests of fairness and equity for all candidates, and to maintain the integrity and standards of our qualifications, to investigate where concerns of malpractice are raised.

“Any kind of malpractice is totally unacceptable. We will continue to work with our centres, the teaching profession, and our markers and invigilators, to ensure that our approaches to malpractice are applied.”

This morning the SQA also published figures on the number of pupils who cheated in last year’s exams

In 2018, penalties were applied in 204 cases – up from 183 cases in 2017 and 169 cases in 2016.

In 116 cases last year, pupils caught cheating received no qualification. Revision of marks – where candidates’ papers were re-marked omitting any section where cheating was attempted – was applied in 25 cases. Warnings were given in 63 cases.

The most common type of cheating last year was plagiarism (73 cases), followed by pupils caught with prohibited items such as mobile phones (45 incidents).

The publication today of the new figures follows concerns that the internally assessed National 4 qualifications are being “handed out like sweeties”. A teacher writing anonymously in Tes Scotland earlier this year said the practice amounted to “gross professional misconduct”: in his school he had refused to pass a child only to find that someone else had “coached” the pupil through the qualification.

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