Inquiry into exam ‘cheating’ launched

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Urgent inquiries into “shocking” allegations that teachers were given unfair advice about upcoming exams are under way amid rising concerns about standards.

Two examiners with the WJEC exam board have been suspended following the claims, which centred on teachers being given detailed advice on forthcoming exam questions and how students could score higher marks.

England’s exams regulator Ofqual has warned that exam boards could be forced to re-write next year’s GCSE and A-level papers if it is found that teachers were given unfair advice on how to boost results.

According to a Daily Telegraph investigation, teachers paid up to £230 a day for seminars hosted by chief examiners. During some of these seminars they were allegedly given advice on the wording students should use to increase their marks, and which questions they were likely to face.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said it confirmed that the current system was “discredited” as he ordered Ofqual to look into the Telegraph’s claims, and report back by Christmas.

Conservative Welsh Assembly Member Angela Burns described the allegations as “shocking” and said they raised more concerns about a “lack of rigour” in Wales’s education system.

“We need a thorough and urgent investigation into these serious allegations,” she said.

WJEC, the Welsh exam board, said it had suspended two of its history examiners as it announced it was conducting its own inquiry.

The Welsh Government said Education Minister Leighton Andrews had demanded immediate answers from WJEC.

It is understood that the two WJEC examiners who have been suspended are Paul Evans and Paul Barnes, both of whom were named in the Telegraph’s report.

Undercover Telegraph reporters attended 13 seminars run by exam boards, the newspaper reported.

It alleged that at these seminars, teachers were “routinely” given information about upcoming questions, words or facts that students should use to gain marks, and areas of the syllabus that teachers should focus on.

In one case, Mr Evans, a chief examiner with WJEC, was alleged to have been recorded telling teachers that a compulsory question in a certain exam goes through a cycle. He is said to add: “We’re cheating.”

“We’re telling you the cycle (of the compulsory question). Probably the regulator will tell us off,” the Telegraph reported.

In a statement, WJEC said it was taking the allegations “very seriously indeed” and was “investigating the circumstances revealed by their undercover reporter as a matter of urgency”.

It added: “The information given at the courses, including detailed examiners’ reports on the previous year’s assessment, is freely available on the website for all teachers, whether or not they are able to attend courses.”

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg called on the Government to act “quickly and decisively to ensure faith in A-levels and GCSEs”.

Edexcel, one of England’s main exam boards, said that, like all awarding bodies, it runs “feedback events” for teachers. Their statement said their contracts specifically state that no discussion of the content of future exam questions should take place.

Comment: Page 14.