Schools' cheating culture exposed

20th May 2005 at 01:00
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 their school's exam results. Some primaries are also said to be breaking test regulations.

In an open letter to the Education Secretary Ruth Kelly, 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 and admitted the increasingly common practice undermined exam integrity.

This week The TES was passed copies of a student's two essays for this year's GCSE English literature coursework, plus notes prepared for the candidate by the teacher at a Welsh secondary.

The teacher's guidance for an assignment on Macbeth is a 40-point checklist setting out what the student should write, including which quotes to include. Nearly 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.

Even teachers of infants, whose test results are not put in league tables, are feeling the pressure. Last week, an experienced teacher who altered answers on test papers for seven-year-olds was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct by England's General Teaching Council.

An employment tribunal heard evidence last week that Prince Harry's A-level art coursework at Eton was not his own, an allegation which is strenuously denied. Exam board guidance allows pupils to "redraft" coursework, but says teachers should keep feedback general so pupils have to figure out how to change work.

But some staff say the rules are bent by teachers. One teacher admitted to The TES that she helps her pupils with food technology GCSE coursework every year.

She said: "If the pupil said that teenagers need iron in their diet and left it at that, you would tell them to put down where iron comes from. If they did not, you would stand over them and tell them the foods that iron is found in, and tell them to write it down."

A teacher from an east London primary said that her school did not send off completed key stage 2 English scripts of pupils who were thought to have missed level 4 this year, so they would not harm the school's figures. The teacher said the school "fixed" the pupils' teacher assessment scores afterwards so it looked as if they were not eligible for the tests.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said students who cheated on coursework risked failing their exams. Only four teachers were banned by exam boards for having helped with A-level coursework in 2003, it added.

news 4, Leader 22


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