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Updated: February 4, 2010 16:47 IST

UK: cell phones fuel increase in exam cheating

GUARDIAN NEWS SERVICE
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HIDDEN AIDES: A cell phone on a student's work desk. An increasing number of students in the U.K are trying to cheat in public exams using cell phones.
AP HIDDEN AIDES: A cell phone on a student's work desk. An increasing number of students in the U.K are trying to cheat in public exams using cell phones.

The number of British school pupils trying to cheat in public examinations, many by smuggling cell phones into the exam hall, rose last year. According to official statistics out today (3FEB) penalties for for what is formally known as exam malpractice rose by 6%.

More than 4,400 penalties were issued to students, and there was a jump of 29% in the number handed out to teaching staff at exam centres.

Penalties to staff were up from 68 to 88, according to exams regulator for England and Wales Ofqual, with those for helping students cheat increasing from 45 to 58.

The most common type of cheating by pupils was bringing in unauthorised material - mainly phones and other electronic communication devices they could use to access the internet or look up stored information. Other banned items being sneaked into the exam hall included calculators, dictionaries or study guides. Some 1,897 penalties were given in this area - up 8% on the year before. The number of penalties to school or other exam centres was up 35%, from 52 to 70, with much of the increase caused by actions such as opening question papers early, allowing candidates to sit an exam at an incorrect time and lack of appropriate invigilation. In 20 cases, the school or college concerned had given help to students.

Ofqual pointed out, however, that cheating remained extremely rare, with the number caught only equivalent to 0.03% of all the exams sat by candidates. Last year the figure was 0.02%.

In almost half of cases students lost marks, and in one in six cases they lost the chance to gain a qualification. In over a third of instances, candidates were issued a warning.

Ofqual chair Kathleen Tattersall said: “As regulator it is our role to ensure that fair systems are in place and that these are followed correctly. These figures provide invaluable information regarding the examination season and allow us to check that the systems put in place to protect learners are followed.”


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