Ofqual: schools playing the system to boost pupils’ grades

The Telegraph is reporting that record numbers of schools are attempting to inflate pupils’ marks in GCSEs and A-levels amid warnings from the qualifications watchdog over “rising pressure” to hit targets…

In a major report, Ofqual found that the number of requests for “special consideration” in exams – extra marks for illnesses and injury – had increased by a fifth in the last year.

It was revealed that demands for “access arrangements”, such as 25 per cent additional time at the end of the test, had also soared by 10 per cent this summer.

In a further disclosure, the number of teachers – or entire schools and colleges – caught attempting to cheat the exams system increased by 40 per cent in 2014.

Most penalties related to staff giving “inappropriate assistance” given to pupils during exams but others concerned the early opening of test papers, breaches of security and allowing teenagers to take exams at the wrong time.

Ofqual said the rising numbers of requests for legitimate special help was “difficult to explain”, but suggested it could be “a sign of the rising pressure on schools” caused by recent reforms to the exams system.

The regulator added that increases in penalties for cheating “also concern us” and announced it would be launching a fresh investigation into alleged malpractice.

The conclusions were made in a wide-ranging report into marking in this summer’s exams in England…

More at: Ofqual: schools playing the system to boost pupils’ grades


Thoughts and reactions to these figures? If schools are playing the system and/or cheating, are there any realistic steps that could be taken to reduce the likelihood of it happening? Please give us your suggestions in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove The is Ofqual stating the obvious. If an advantage can be gained those not pursuing it would be arguably negligent

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Total dependence on data by DfE and Ofsted means that schools would be negligent if they didn’t maximise chances of success

  3. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove “Cheating” can’t be condoned but is a predictable symptom of the current educational climate of fear bred by DfE & Ofsted

  4. When  hospitals were given targets for waiting times, one hospital took the wheels off the trolleys, and renamed the corridor as a ‘ward’ to help meet the target.
    When police were given targets for burglary, they reduced the effort to prosecute rape. 
    Lesson:  any target based system will divert effort away from the main task and towards the target.

  5. Janet2

    Is anyone surprised?  The OECD (Education at a Glance 2011) warned the excessive emphasis on raw exam results in England risked negative consequences including teaching to the test, ignoring other important skills and ‘gaming’.  The latter would, of course, have included cheating but the OECD was too diplomatic to say so.

    That was 3 years ago.  The emphasis on test results has increased. As Mike Bell says below, a target driven culture has negative consequences..

  6. MrJDexter

    .andylutwyche SchoolsImprove not playing a system not at all – it’s about quality of marking and some markers. It needs addressing QA

  7. stevejodwin

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove Sorry I totally disagree.It is not predictable, condonable or in any way acceptable.This is a profession & 1/2

  8. stevejodwin

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove 2/2 anyone cheating should have no place in the profession. Suggesting it is predictable is tacit acceptance.

  9. stevejodwin

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove 2/2 anyone cheating should have no place in the profession. Suggesting it is predictable is tacit acceptance.

  10. andylutwyche

    stevejodwin SchoolsImprove I agree but in every system where data is the be all & end all this is a symptom. I have never said it’s right!

  11. andylutwyche

    stevejodwin SchoolsImprove Playing the system so that your students can achieve the best set of grades is totally different however

  12. blackviking1

    SchoolsImprove kazjohnson When Business does it to avoid tax it’s enterprising & acceptable. But I guess the #Tories will scream at this.

  13. thislast

    SchoolsImprove The sad thing about this story is that no one is shocked. Children notice these things. They learn to act as they are shown.

  14. 1505helen

    SchoolsImprove great so schools like ours who play it straight get worse results and end up paying the price! I know of one school in 1/2

  15. whatonomy

    SchoolsImprove I don’t condone but also don’t blame the schools. Fear breeds malpractice. There is no place for it in a 21C ed system.

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