Ofqual consults on new 'clearer' malpractice and maladministration guidance

The exams regulator Ofqual wants to replace its current guidance on how exam boards should tackle malpractice and maladministration, amid fears it is currently too simplistic.

Current guidance is made up of a list of “dos and don’ts” to help exam boards meet “condition A8” – one of eight “general conditions of recognition” they must comply with to remain recognised by the regulator.

Condition A8 addresses both malpractice, things like cheating and manipulating results, and maladministration, which covers mistakes or poor process.

However, the regulator believes that prevention, investigation and sanctioning of malpractice and maladministration “can often be complex” and brings into play a number of different conditions in Ofqual’s handbook.

It is therefore proposing that its new guidance will be written with a narrative structure rather than a list. The rules themselves, however, will not change.

The guidance will identify how “several conditions might interact in relation to malpractice and maladministration” and outline examples of “reasonable steps” exam boards might take to prevent incidents.

“Instead of providing positive and negative indicators, this draft guidance sets out the relevant conditions and factors awarding organisations should consider to ensure they are compliant,” Ofqual said in its consultation.

“It is intended to help [exam boards] understand what we expect them to do when addressing malpractice and maladministration.”

If adopted, the proposed guidance will sit as separate guidance to the general rules of recognition, rather than as part of condition A8.

“We welcome views on the content and the style of the draft guidance. We are not making any changes to the condition itself, so the obligations that are placed on awarding organisations are unchanged.”

Ofqual said the proposed changes were informed by a review of suspected and proven incidents of malpractice and maladministration and other relevant information, including last year’s report on the matter by the Joint Council for Qualifications.

The JCQ recommended that all watches should be banned from exam rooms and awarding organisations should do more to monitor leaks of exam papers on the dark web.

Figures for last summer’s exam series show the number of fines issued to pupils rose, while the number of fines issued to schools fell.