Cheating, Unethical Grading in UK as Schools Game Rankings


An undercover investigation by British Channel 4 Dispatches reveals the stunning scale of shady practices in UK education, with primary and secondary school teachers helping students cheat on their exams and enhancing student grades to improve school rankings – all while thousands of undergraduate students are disciplined for plagiarism every year.

The structure of the education system which prioritizes exam performance, university league tables and other performance indicators puts pressure on students, teachers and institutions to excel. This leads to an “epidemic of trickery and cheating,” Richard Adams of The Guardian observes.

In the last four years, more than 58,000 undergraduates have been flagged by their institutions for plagiarism. A total of 40,000 were disciplined, and four hundred were either expelled or excluded from tertiary education altogether. Some 12,000 students had their course marks deducted.

In 2014, a total of 60,000 students were accused of plagiarism, the Freedom of Information request by Chanel 4 Dispatches TC show revealed.

According to the Telegraph, a secondary school student, Victoria Kimmins who was attending Portslade Aldridge Community Academy was urged by the school to leave so that her poor performance wouldn’t affect the Academy’s league table rank. Kimmins was asked to leave before having a chance to taking her Year 11 examination. Her mother said:

“Last year, I found out that the school had classed Vicky as a guest pupil, which explains everything. That’s why they wanted her off the register. It wasn’t about Vicky’s best interests; it was about what was best for the school.”

A Portsdale Academy spokesperson responded following the revelation:

“We are very sorry to learn that Victoria and her mother do not believe that she got the support she needed in her final two terms…“We can confirm that Victoria was one of 12 students who were wrongly moved onto to guest status in 2012/3. This should not have happened.”

The TV show reveals that 9% of secondary schools have confessed they’ve released significantly higher pass rates than the official statistics released by the Department for Education. An Ed Department spokesperson said the present government wants its primary school students well-prepared for secondary school. He said:

“Tests are a key part of this process, demonstrating that pupils have mastered those skills and reassuring parents that their children are receiving the best possible education. He added, “[w]e trust the professionalism of teachers to administer the Key Stage 2 tests according to the published guidance, and it is essential that the integrity and security of these tests is maintained.”

The phenomenon spreads across several primary and secondary schools in Britain. Teachers resort to more lenient exam grading, test and grade alteration, inflation of school’s GCSE passing grades and purposefully giving lower grades to show more impressive student advancement later.

In one incident a whistleblower teacher revealed how at the King’s Farm school a student was allowed to re-write exam answers after the exam was complete. According to the Telegraph, the Kent County Council confirmed the “inappropriate behavior” at the school.

The Channel 4 Dispatch episode “Exams: Cheating the System?” aired Monday 15th June in the UK.