School exam rules to be reviewed after cheat row

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exam hallImage source, PA

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb says he wants a review of the rules surrounding teachers who help to write exam questions in England - in the wake of claims of cheating.

"The public must have confidence in the integrity of the exam system, and cheating of any kind is unacceptable," said Mr Gibb.

The Ofqual exam watchdog will carry out the review and report later this year.

This will find whether checks are "sufficiently robust", says Ofqual.

The review follows claims of advance information being leaked about exams.

There have been calls for a clearer separation between teachers involved in setting questions and those teaching the subject.

'Risks to security'

Eton College's deputy head of academics left following allegations that he had shared confidential information about a forthcoming economics exam with other members of staff.

Winchester College has suspended its head of art history, after allegations of "advance knowledge" of exam papers.

The exams were the Cambridge International Pre-U, usually taken by private school pupils as an alternative to A-levels.

"Exam regulator Ofqual is now reviewing the rules under which teachers take part in writing and reviewing question papers, and have confirmed to me that they are considering whether action is needed," said Mr Gibb.

"The overwhelming majority of teachers act appropriately when working with exam materials, but where they do not schools have a responsibility to report it to the exam board for investigation."

A statement from Ofqual says: "The involvement of serving teachers in the process of exam setting has many benefits and exam malpractice by teachers is rare.

"However, access to live materials must be appropriately controlled and risks to security minimised. We will investigate whether the safeguards in place are sufficiently robust and whether changes are needed."

Earlier this week, Malcolm Trobe of the ASCL head teachers' union suggested that senior examiners could be barred from preparing pupils for exams set by the board for which they work.

It has been seen as important for practising teachers, with specialist subject knowledge and current classroom experience, to advise on setting exam questions.

But there have been concerns about a conflict of interest if teachers are working with exam boards and at the same time preparing pupils for exams set by the same board.

Chris King, chair of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) group of independent schools, said: "Pupils, parents and schools deserve an examination system which is open, transparent and supported by the best teachers.

"While exam malpractice is very rare, it has no place in any school as demonstrated by the decisive action taken by HMC heads involved in recent instances.

"We therefore welcome this review of exam safeguards and hope it will reassure teachers they need not be put off becoming involved in exam paper design."