Exams: Pupil cheating rises by a fifth, with harsher punishments

The number of pupils caught cheating in GCSE and A-level exams continues to rise

The number of pupils caught cheating in GCSE and A-level exams continues to rise

14 Dec 2023, 10:46

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The number of penalties handed out to students caught cheating has risen for a second year

Cases of pupil cheating in exams increased by almost a fifth this year, and are now 66 per cent higher than before the pandemic, new data shows.

Ofqual data, published today, shows there were 4,895 cases of malpractice involving students this summer that resulted in penalties being applied, up from 4,105 in 2022 and 2,950 in pre-pandemic 2019.

The number of pupils caught cheating has jumped by 17 per cent year-on-year, from 3,985 last summer to 4,665 this year.

However, cases of cheating remain tiny in comparison to the number of exam entries, which stood at 17 million across GCSEs, AS and A-levels this year.

Data shows punishment for pupils is also becoming harsher, with 20 per cent of cases resulting in a “loss of aggregation of certification opportunity”, meaning the pupil lost marks for the entire exam.

This compares with just 7 per cent of cases in 2022, and 15 per cent of cases in 2019, the last pre-pandemic exam year.

Just under half (49 per cent) of cases saw pupils lose marks this year, while 30 per cent led to a warning.

It comes after exams this year returned to pre-pandemic grading standards, following years of disruption due to Covid.

School and staff cheating penalties drop

Mobile phone or other communication device offences continue to account for the largest proportion of penalties, as they did in 2022 and 2019, but the proportion they make up has grown.

There were 2,180 cases with penalties for the offence in 2023 (44.5 per cent of all cases), compared with 1,825 in 2022 (43 per cent of all cases).

There was also a small rise in the percentage of cases where pupils were penalised for disruptive behaviour, from 5 per cent last year to 6 per cent in 2023.

But cases of schools and colleges and their staff members being caught cheating have fallen.

This year, 220 cases of malpractice involved members of staff, down from 240 last year – an 8 per cent fall.

Cases of school or college level malpractice also fell by 9 per cent, from 55 in 2022 to 50 this year.

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