An A for simply surfing the Net?

25th February 2000 at 00:00
A 17-year-old has set up a business supplying ready-to-download essays to lazy students. Chris Bunting and Steve Hook report

A MALVERN College schoolboy is to add to teachers' woes with a business supplying A-level and GSCE coursework on the Internet.

Online databases offering teenagers other people's essays to pass off as their own have become big business in the United States.

Sites such as "School Sucks: Download your Workload" and "The Evil House of Cheat" boast thousands of customers a day, charging up to $70 (pound;45) for proven A-grade papers.

Students can even commission custom-written essays for $10 a page.

Now, British youngsters are being offered an essay service of their own, although no guarantee of quality is given and there is no charge for the essays. Students dial up at their own risk as anyone caught cheating may be disqualified.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Delingpole, an International Baccalaureate student at the private boarding school, is the brains behind Studentcentral.co.uk, offering a database of 500 essays and a search engine accessing 4,000 more across the Internet. Students are invited to post their own essays on the site.

Separate sections target university, A-level and GCSE students, with offerings ranging from GCSE investigations of the reaction between marble and hydrochloric acid to a university paper on poetry and power in Elizabethan theatre.

A piece titled "What is Thatcherism? Did it Succeed?" is one of three A-level politics essays on the site. It concludes: "Britons should be grateful to her for improving their national economic health, for stopping the socialist rot in our country and for increasing the standing of Britain in the world."

"The GCSE coursework is he most popular," Charlie said. "In the science courses, the variation on the coursework is fairly limited, so you are almost certain to find what you want on our site."

A smaller competitor to Studentcentral, gcseworld.cjb.net, claims to offer hundreds more essays to schoolchildren.

Charlie, who launched Studentcentral in November, is unconcerned about the ethics of the venture, although he admits that it may limit pupils' incentive to do their own work.

"Where there is demand, there is supply and I am supplying it," said Charlie.

The site is receiving about 3,000 search requests a month and traffic is increasing daily.

In common with most dot.com businesses, the money is hardly flooding in. Student Central has yet to sign a big name sponsor and, although it features banner adverts from several large Internet companies, revenue since it came online last year is less than pound;50.

George Turnbull, spokesman for the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, said: "If someone is not doing very well in their course work, whether it's at GCSE level or degree level, and they suddenly hand in a fantastic essay, it is going to be fairly obvious that it is not their work.

"Teachers know very well what their students are capable of and I don't think this sort of thing is going to fool them one bit.

"If coursework is being assessed and people have cheated then they could face being disqualified.

Charlie's main hope of making serious money would be a buy-out from a big Internet company. Meanwhile, he is working into the small hours nurturing the business which could become a nightmare for unimaginative homework setters everywhere.

A spokesman for Malvern College declined to comment on the venture.


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