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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 May 2006, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Worry at web exam plagiarism rise
exam sign
Pupils are not allowed to take mobile phones into their exams
New concerns have been raised that use of the internet and mobile phones is fuelling an increase in pupils cheating in their exams and coursework.

According to the Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC) exam board there has been a "significant" rise in pupils caught copying work from the web.

More than 600 candidates were identified as using the web for coursework at GCSE and A-level.

NUT Cymru said it was "increasingly aware" of the misuse of technology.

And the union fears that the use of non-teaching staff to invigilate exams could exacerbate the problem.

Derec Stockley, the director of examinations and assessments for the WJEC, said: "As far as malpractice is concerned, the main problem we are concerned with is the increase in plagiarism exacerbated by the internet."

Any kind of smart technology opens opportunities for youngsters
Mal Davies

"Plagiarism affects coursework more than external exam conditions, and in the cases that come to our attention, more and more are linked to the internet."

He said 2005 figures released by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) showed 364 WJEC candidates were caught for plagiarism in their GCSE coursework, and 272 at AS and A-level.

Although no figures were available for 2004, Mr Stockley said there had been a "significant" increase in the number of cases of plagiarism involving the internet.

The figures are not confined to Wales, as candidates outside of Wales also sit WJEC examinations. They also include cases of plagiarism carried out by methods other than the internet.

Mr Stockley said one college in south Wales was currently taking part in a pilot scheme by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) to test software designed to help teachers and lecturers identify plagiarism.

A sign warning pupils not to take mobile phones into examination rooms
Warning signs are placed outside examination rooms

The figures also showed there had been a rise in the number of pupils sitting WJEC exams caught cheating with mobile phones.

In 2005, 94 candidates were apprehended, compared with 64 in 2004.

Mr Stockley said the figures were "not of great importance" as over one million examinations, or components, were sat.

He said: "The small number is not statistically relevant, 99.9% of candidates adhere to regulations, a very small minority indulge in malpractice."

But according to the head teacher of Willows High School in Cardiff, Mal Davies, there is cause for concern.

He said: "I think any kind of smart technology opens opportunities for youngsters, but largely, this has been managed well by teachers invigilating the exams."

Mr Davies said he was worried that under the workload agreement, from last September, schools recruited supervisors, rather than use teaching staff, to invigilate exams.

Controlling pupils

He said: "Even trained teachers have to win the respect of pupils before they can operate with full authority.

"It's going to be a very tall order for untrained people to come in and do that at first sight of the candidates."

Mr Davies said the biggest burden invigilators face was not cheating but controlling candidates who may be disruptive.

However, he says if the invigilators were occupied with controlling pupils they may not be able to give their full attention to looking out for cheats.

But a Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson said invigilators were able to focus fully on supervising exams.

A statement read: "Examination invigilators offer a specialised service providing a high level of expertise and consistency and do not have to fit it in between teaching duties.

"(They) can therefore focus all their attention on the appropriate conduct of examinations."

David Evans, the Wales secretary of NUT Cymru, said the union was becoming "increasingly aware" of candidates using technology to cheat in exams.

He said: "It's not absolutely rife, it is just a small percentage of people, but schools need to be aware.

"What Mr Davies said is probably correct, there is the possibility for an increase to appear over time."

However, Mr Stockley said all examination centres had to adhere to WJEC regulations and were regularly inspected.

He said: "Most of the invigilators used last year were not members of teaching staff, and no major problems were brought to our attention."

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26 Jul 05 |  Education
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22 Nov 05 |  Education
'Blatant copying' in coursework
02 Nov 05 |  Education

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