Teachers need code of ethics, says exams chief

The Times is reporting claims from the outgoing Ofqual head that teachers should have an ethical code to help them to resist pressures to cheat or “game” the system. 

The paper reports Dame Glenys Stacey as suggesting such a code would help teachers clarify boundaries in the face of enormous pressure to improve exam results and also reports her concerns over what she sees as a lack of agreement over what is or is not acceptable when preparing students for exams.

She is quoted:

“There isn’t an ethical code for teachers and there isn’t a lot done or researched about ethics in education. There are some risks for the system if we don’t discuss it… Teachers are in an invidious position at times and where is the guidance? Vets, for example, know when they can and can’t kill an animal and that they will be brought up before their professional body if they make that wrong judgment.” 

The report goes on to discuss a consultation launched by Dame Glenys after the change to English GCSE grade levels in 2012 following fears teachers were inflating marks and here she is quoted:

“There was a sufficient amount of strategic marking to bend that qualification… There were other factors at play . . . but, yes, the evidence was very dispiriting when we actually saw what had happened there…”

“What was amazing was the enormous grey area in the middle,.. We had a list of about 30 things and the extent and range of view . . . there was no clear agreement…  Teachers disagreed, for example, on whether it was right to urge pupils to pick subjects in which they would get good grades, rather than those with the best career prospects or that they enjoyed most…”

More at: Teachers need code of ethics, says exams chief (subscription may be required)


Does Dame Glenys make a valid point is suggesting more guidance on ethics is needed for teachers around exam-related issues?

If so, where do you think the grey areas are?

Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…


Do teachers need a code of ethics to clarify boundaries around exams?

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  1. Stacey’s right: education ethics is rarely discussed.  And it won’t be as long as it’s accepted that teachers can be trained on-the-job.  This leaves little time for studying and reflecting on educational philosophy let alone ethics.

  2. RebelSpeducator

    SchoolsImprove I would love to see teachers tackle this problem…Ethical use of standardized test scores would be a good starting point

  3. 1.  Some years ago I wrote what I called a “Socratic Oath” for teachers.  “I will teach each and every one of my pupils to the best of my professional ability and endeavour to identify and respond to their educational needs in accord with ideals of social justice”.   This wasn’t written to guide teachers – this is already in their bones – but to tell the outside world how precious teaching is and how dedicated are its professionals.

    2.In response to Dame Stacey I suggest it is not the “gaming” of teachers with the exam system but the exam system itself that is at fault – or, more accurately, the use that politicians make of the results.  Abolishing league tables would be a good start!

  4. Teacher62

    I wonder if headteachers and exam boards are the ones in need of a code of ethics.
    I am aware of a number of occasions when they ( AQA and headteacher) did not investigate meaningfully when examination malpractice has been reported to them. I refer to an article published in October 2015. It appears that it is not in their interest to investigate exam malpractice.

  5. davew2101969

    SchoolsImprove if the stakes weren’t so preposterously high for teachers, head teachers and schools then this would not be an issue.

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