Fifty Leaving Cert scripts held back over cheating

Further 25 ‘provisionally withheld pending communication’ with students

Scripts withheld if cheating suspected. Photograph: Peter Thursfield

Scripts withheld if cheating suspected. Photograph: Peter Thursfield

Fri, Aug 16, 2013, 07:23

Cheating during the Leaving Cert is a small but persistent aspect of the examination process, and this year was no exception.

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) has “withheld” 50 individual examination papers for breaking the rules and another 25 have been provisionally withheld.

A student’s paper is withheld if they break any of the rules for the “conduct of candidates” during an examination, the SEC explains. Included among them are any incidence of suspected copying, trying to get assistance from another person, plagiarism or putting forward another’s work as your own, among others.

If cheating is suspected, the superintendent overseeing the examination centre may decide to withhold the student’s script. “The principles of natural justice are applied when following up such cases,” the SEC said in a statement issued this morning.

There may be evidence in the form of confiscated material or items, notes and such and the candidate is invited to offer a response, the SEC said. The school authorities may also be invited to offer a response.

The final decision on whether a script will be withheld is issued in writing to the candidate via his or her school, but any decision to withhold is open to appeal, the SEC said.

In most cases the withholding only relates to a single subject and once withheld it is as if the paper never existed for that student, a spokeswoman at the SEC explained. The student is not given an F or a no grade, the paper for that candidate is gone.

The numbers withheld this year are in keeping with previous years, the spokeswoman said: 67 papers were withheld in 2011 and 75 in 2012. This year there have been 50 incidences of cheating, but the SEC must decide on the remaining 25 provisional withholdings which are being retained “on a without prejudice basis pending further communication with the schools and candidates concerned”, the SEC statement said. For this reason a final number for 2013 is not yet available.

These figures may seem substantial but are in fact minuscule in terms of the overall examination process, with almost half a million scripts issued. At this rate cheating occurrence is less than one in 10,000.

Even so the SEC takes each incidence very seriously. The students have a set of regulations associated with taking the examinations and there is a set of rules for the superintendents invigilating the exams. “The rules are being updated all of the time,” the spokeswoman said yesterday.

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