UK primary schools investigated for cheating on the rise

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The  Week

Pressure on teachers to get good results driving increase in maladministration

The number of British primary schools investigated for cheating in exams has risen sharply, driven in part by increasing pressure on teacher to get good results.

A report from the Standards and Testing Agency shows that 599 schools were investigated for maladministration during the Sats exams in 2017, compared with 524 in 2016, a rise of 14%.

Maladministration includes pupils cheating, “over-aiding” of children by teachers and changes being made to test papers by someone other than the pupil.

In one high profile case this year, the Mail on Sunday revealed that the results of two Sats exams taken by pupils at “a school crowned the best in Britain” had been annulled following an investigation by Government inspectors, following a tip-off from a whistleblower.

Broadford Primary School in East London, which won the prestigious Times Educational Supplement School of the Year award last year and was praised by the then-education secretary Justine Greening as a “truly outstanding school,” was accused of feeding correct answers to children.

Another primary praised by ministers and forced to become an academy despite widespread opposition from parents has been caught cheating by “over-aiding” year six pupils in maths and English Sats exams over the summer.

A third school in south London, which boast David Bowie among its former pupils, is also under investigation after its Sats results were annulled amid allegations of teacher cheating, financial mismanagement, bullying and intimidation.

What is more, “data from September suggests that the situation is getting worse” says The Independent. In 2018, 2,688 Sats results were suppressed due to ongoing maladministration investigations, compared with only 723 in 2017.

It follows the decision by the government to introduce tougher statutory tests for Year 2 and Year 6 pupils, a move experts say has piled pressure on teachers to maintain performance results.

Calling the current Sats system “defective and discredited”, one teacher writing anonymously in The Guardian last year admitted pressure to meet exam targets has made him “twist the rules”.

“If you create a toxic system where schools and teachers are judged on the results children get in Sats, then of course it is no surprise that some schools and staff will cheat to avoid being downgraded by Ofsted, academised, being paid less or even sacked” a spokesperson for More than a Score, which represents 18 education and parents’ organisations, said.

“When it comes to Sats manipulation, it appears the force only drives in one direction” writes Laura McInerney in Schools Week.

This can go on to impact secondary schools as well, she says, adding that researchers at the Education Datalab believe the reason some secondary schools have a poor progress rate is not always due to its own teaching, but because the pupils arrived with overinflated results from primary school.

 

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