With an increasing spotlight on exams success, comes a growing incidence of cheating both in terms of inappropriate assistance being given to students and poor systems for the management of the exams processes and controlled assessments. In the last six months, we have been advising three governing boards faced with evidence of malpractice which has been brought to light by exam boards. At the same time, details have emerged of serious cases at Eton and Winchester colleges.
The Office of Qualifications and Examination Regulation (Ofqual) has indicated there will be a review of the rules and it’s certainly possible that schools will be forced to reduce their direct oversight of exams within their schools, with both external invigilation and processing of exam papers becoming compulsory for possibly all papers, except SATs (?). Certainly its possible further directions will be issued by Ofqual to both the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) and the Standards and Testing Agency (STA).
We hope to explore the issues and share some insights with you later in the year, but our initial advice based on our experiences investigating incidents is as follows:
- Make sure all staff are fully trained and understand both the Conducting Examinations Guidance 2017/18 and the Suspected Malpractice in Examinations Code 2016/17.
- Be clear who has responsibility for all aspects of the management of exams and that this post carries sufficient seniority.
- If any incident comes to light or a complaint is made, report this to the governing board and make sure any internal investigation is undertaken by a member of SLT with no responsibility for exams.
- If the circumstances suggest more than an isolated incident, commission an external investigation and be prepared to consider disciplinary measures (cheating is of course a serious matter and will invariably lead to dismissal for gross misconduct).
- Think carefully about the wider implications and the impact this will have on the school’s community both pupil and parent body and staff. Sanctions against the centre are rare but it’s certainly possible that those completely innocent of cheating may be affected with results being annulled and department or centre restrictions imposed.
- Be proactive, review policies and practices and keep abreast of changing requirements.
In the meantime, centres will be aware that new Instructions for Conducting Examinations 2017 -2018 have been issued by the Joint Council for Qualifications. Whilst changes continue to feel reactive rather than progressive, it’s worth being aware of the following key changes:
- Awarding bodies must be informed immediately if the security of question papers or exam instructions is put at risk.
- Heads of Centre are directly responsible for ensuring that there are adequate arrangements in place for the safeguarding of question papers until opening (if not opened immediately upon receipt) and that the correct question paper packets are opened.
- Alternative site arrangements have been extended to centres which operate as part of a consortium, whether at Borough/County level or through a multi academy trust. The centre is able to transport papers to another local centre within 90 minutes of the published starting time for the examination.
- Revision and coaching sessions being held just prior to exams must not take place in the examination room(s).
- Heads of Centre are responsible for ensuring external invigilators are competent, fully trained and understand what is not permissible and that training records are maintained and kept on file until any appeal or enquiry into malpractice is completed.
- Signed records of seating plans, invigilation arrangements and attendance registers must be accurate (of course) and retained until the deadline for enquiries has passed or until any appeal or any enquiry into malpractice is completed.
- Candidates must ensure that wrist watches are removed from wrists and placed on desks and Heads of Centre may prohibit candidates from bringing a wrist watch into the examination room.