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Managing malpractice

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A few months ago we presented the headline results of a survey commissioned in 2014 looking at the ways in which teachers can seek to improve the grades of their students. The results were provided by a small, self-selecting group of teachers who reported their first-hand experiences of assessment practices used in schools. As Glenys Stacey summarised immediately after our Oxford symposium, their responses indicated that achieving consensus as to what is considered ethical practice and what is not is challenging.

Nevertheless, the survey and our symposium are two elements of a broader strategic approach we have adopted to drive improvement in this area. So as well as providing support to the teaching profession in addressing malpractice, we have been looking at what we can do to help reduce opportunities for and maximise deterrents against it. Our work has been progressing in a number of ways, encompassing prevention, investigation and action.

For example, in early 2014 we obtained commitments from the exam boards to help prevent malpractice occurring at source. These included implementing changes to the examination inspection service, and internal and external guidance and procedures. The boards also agreed to adopt a more consistent approach to decision-making about any sanctions where malpractice is proven.

Separately, in late 2014 we conducted an initial audit of other actions exam boards are taking to counter malpractice, including looking at the way in which they investigate and manage conflicts of interest when allegations of malpractice are made. In light of our work the exam boards have committed to improve their risk analysis and management of conflicts during investigations and improve the documentation used to support and record their decision-making. We’ll be looking at this area further later in the year.

All of these changes, along with the the teaching profession’s own commitments, point to progress.

None of this changes the responsibility that already rests with exam boards to investigate allegations of malpractice made about schools, teachers or candidates. If allegations are made to us we will continue to, with the agreement of any whistle-blower, provide relevant details to the exam boards. Our regulations require exam boards to rigorously investigate whenever malpractice is suspected (as well as to take all reasonable steps to prevent malpractice taking place), so they must investigate when we notify them of an allegation. It is then the responsibility of the exam board to conduct the investigation and to make decisions based on the evidence.

Read more information on malpractice, or report a suspected incidence

Dr Ian Stockford
Acting Executive Director for General Qualifications, Ofqual

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