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Schools resort to cheating

Cheating in schools has become "institutionalised", teachers claimed this week. Staff are bending the rules on GCSE and A-level coursework because of pressure to improve exam results. Some primaries are also reportedly breaking test regulations in their desperation to improve.

In an open letter to the English Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly, 19 contributors to The TES website say the issue is so serious that consideration should be given to scrapping coursework.

This month, the Joint Council for Qualifications issued new guidance to schools on combating plagiarism, admitting the increasingly popular practice called into question the integrity of exams.

Teachers are giving pupils point-by-point guidance which is as long as the assignments they have to complete, it is alleged.

This week The TES was passed copies of a student's two essays for this year's GCSE English literature coursework, plus notes on the work prepared for the candidate by their teacher, at a Welsh secondary. The teacher's guidance for an assignment on Macbeth is a 40-point list setting out what the student should write, including which quotes to include. Virtually every point features in the essay.

Other teachers say they do not have the time to check pupils' work for plagiarism. In extreme cases, they complete the coursework for students, it is claimed. The claims came as this summer's exams started. Guidance from exam boards allows pupils to "redraft" their coursework, but says feedback from teachers should be general.

A teacher, who insisted on anonymity, said she helps her pupils with food technology GCSE coursework every year. For example, if they were asked to design a low-fat food to sell in a school canteen and just said teenagers needed iron in their diet, "you would tell them to put down where iron comes from".

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