Teachers deny sharing exam details

Former exam vetter accused of passing on information in out-of-hours meeting

Alexander Lawrie

News article image

A senior teacher who helped put together national exams has denied passing inside information to a pupil and a colleague.

Bob Roberts - a retired teacher who was an exam vetter with the Scottish Qualifications Authority - is said to have passed on information relating to future exam questions to graphic communications teacher Sabrina Ferguson during an out-of-school-hours meeting.

Ms Ferguson is accused of then using the information to make up exam revision lists, which she distributed to teaching staff at Lornshill Academy in Alloa.

Mr Roberts, the former head of the Clackmannanshire school's technical department, was accused of deliberately allowing his teaching registration to lapse following his retirement in an effort to avoid any future disciplinary proceedings against him.

He faced the accusations as he appeared as a witness at a General Teaching Council for Scotland disciplinary hearing in Edinburgh.

It has brought charges against his former colleague, Ms Ferguson, claiming she received the information relating to exams from Mr Roberts, and then prepared revision lists for the SQA Standard grade General, Standard grade Credit, Intermediate 2 and Higher graphic communications exams, in March 2010.

Ms Ferguson appeared in person at the GTCS hearing on Tuesday.

The GTCS disciplinary sub-committee heard that, after he retired, Mr Roberts made an impromptu visit to the school in March 2010, where he met Ms Ferguson and one pupil who was studying for the graphic communications Higher.

Mr Roberts brought a pre-prepared technical drawing with him that he knew was a "recognised topic that (usually) gave pupils difficulty" and proceeded to show the teenager the drawing.

The hearing was told that a very similar version of the drawing featured in the exam which the pupil took just weeks later.

Mr Roberts, who denied all the allegations levelled against him, also denied "tipping the wink" to the pupil and said he was only helping to introduce a topic rather than a specific exam question.

Ms Ferguson, 41, denies all the charges against her, claiming the similarities between the revision lists she prepared in 2010 and the actual exam questions were down to "coincidence".

She also claimed the allegations were brought against her owing to a vendetta on the part of two members of the school's teaching staff following months of "tension in the technical department".

The hearing was also told Mr Roberts had faced a similar allegation in 2009, but no official complaints were ever brought.

Previously, the panel had heard from Alan Smithyman, described as "the most senior technical teacher in the country", who dismissed the coincidence theory, saying the information contained in the revision lists could only have come from someone who had access to the actual exam paper.

GTCS solicitor Niall McLean told the panel there was "clear evidence" that the graphic communication exam had been compromised, with the topics in the revision list having appeared in the same order as in the exam papers.

He recapped on witnesses' evidence, that "the revision list exactly matched the order of the exam paper, and, for that reason, their conclusion was whoever prepared the general revision list had access to the exam paper".

Mr McLean added that Mr Roberts and Ms Ferguson were "not credible or reliable witnesses" and that the complaint against Ms Ferguson should be found proven.

The hearing concludes in December.

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Alexander Lawrie

Latest stories


Coronavirus and schools: LIVE 23/9

A one-stop shop for teachers who want to know what impact the ongoing pandemic will have on their working lives
Tes Reporter 23 Sep 2020