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Cheating cases on the rise in UK exams – mostly due to mobile phones

cheating with phone

The number of penalties issued for students cheating in GCSE and A-level exams has increased by 25 percent over the last year, according to data released for 2017 exams in England by the government organisation and exam regulator Ofqual.

And the most common method of cheating? Mobile phones.

Ofqual has blamed the significant rise of cheating cases during England’s GCSE and A-level exams on students sneaking in mobile phones.

Punishment ranged from a simple warning or reduction of marks to the whole paper being annulled. Ofqual claimed those caught with mobile phones were more likely to have their marks docked than other methods of cheating.

But it is not just the students. The figures also revealed the number of teachers and other staff involved in students’ cheating during exams more than doubled.

In 2016, 360 staff members were caught aiding cheating – yet this increased to 895 in 2017.

The BBC reported Ofqual issued 890 penalties to staff last year. In over half of cases, staff received written warnings. However, 185 staff members were required to undergo training and 90 were barred from having any involvement in future exams.

Ofqual cited a third of cases were of teachers giving “improper assistance” to students.

“Exam boards are more likely to issue formal written warnings for similar offences rather than informal advisory notes this year. This still involves a very small proportion of the total number of staff in England,” The Guardian reported Ofqual as saying.

Ofqual claimed the smuggling of “unauthorised materials” into exams was the most common form of malpractice in 2017. This accounted for around 40 percent of students caught cheating and given penalties.

“In most cases, this was a mobile phone or other electronic communications device,” the report stated.

Almost 80 percent of cases with unauthorised materials involved a mobile phone. Plagiarism was also rife, totalling just under a fifth of cases.

The most common subjects in which to cheat were Maths and Computing, with 86 percent of cases occurring during these exams.

Naturally, many of the plagiarism cases also involved an electronic device of some kind.

Ofqual was keen to stress that while the number of cheating cases increased by a quarter, the overall number is still low. 2,715 penalties were issued to cheating students, making up just 0.015 percent of all exam entrants.

The data has called for experts to question the current education system in the UK. This alarming rise in cheating cases follows the introduction of new GCSE exams in English and Maths.

Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Layla Moran told the BBC the data is “an extremely worrying trend in our exam halls”.

She added it “throws into question whether the current assessment process is even fit for purpose”.

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