Exams caught on camera

11th April 2008 at 01:00
Plans to film invigilation process to prevent cheating and false allegations against staff

Closed circuit TV cameras could be used in exam halls to protect invigilators against unfounded complaints from students.

The Examination Officers' Association (EOA), which represents 2,500 exams administrators, is investigating the move amid concerns that some staff have been blamed when pupils have underperformed.

The technology could also be used as a check against pupil misbehaviour or cheating.

Rooms used for exams - typically gyms - are broadly the last parts of school buildings yet to come under the gaze of cameras, said the EOA.

The association is in talks with Classwatch, a company that provides cameras for 65 schools in England for use in lesson observations.

Andrew Harland, chief executive of the association, said it had received complaints from members about disputes with pupils and parents over the administration of exams. Typically, he said, a student might allege they had done badly in a paper because they had not been given an important instruction by an invigilator. They might also claim a member of staff wrongly told them to do something in the exam.

"In these situations, it is often the word of the invigilator against the word of the student or parent," Mr Harland said. "CCTV in the exam room would protect the student and protect the staff."

The EOA recently held a straw poll of readers of its online newsletter and found a narrow majority of its members supported the idea.

It plans to encourage schools and colleges to carry out a trial to explore the benefits of CCTV.

The association is also considering the possibility of a similar trial of fingerprint technology to identify pupils in the exam hall, and so prevent substitute candidates.

It fears the advent of new diplomas, which could involve students sitting exams away from their usual school or college, could make substitution easier. Angus Drever, managing director of Classwatch, said: "Schools would be able to review recordings after the event to pick up on any inappropriate behaviour. Invigilators would have an extra check on what was going on, in addition to walking past students' desks."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the rise in the number of invigilators, who were less familiar with students than their teachers, meant there was a greater need for checks.

"If a pupil knows CCTV cameras are around, it's like slowing down for a speed camera on a main road: it acts as a deterrent," he said.

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