By Gordon Deegan
Instances of suspected cheating by students sitting the Leaving Certificate have increased by 11% this year.
This follows the State Examinations Commission (SEC) confirming on Thursday that a total of 43 Leaving Certificate results have been permanently withheld from students amid suspicions of cheating.
An SEC spokeswoman said: “This includes full results withheld, or marks withheld, from candidates found to be in breach of the SEC's examinations regulations.”
Such rulings are open to appeal and the spokeswoman said that in addition the SEC has provisionally withheld 37 other Leaving Cert results, on a without prejudice basis, pending further communication with the schools and candidates concerned.
The combined 80 total for the 2018 Leaving Cert compares to the combined 72 total last year - an increase of 11% on 2017.
The 2017 total was made up of 38 permanently withheld results and an initial 34 results provisionally held back.
After issues over the 34 provisionally held back results were addressed last year, the SEC spokeswoman said that the final ‘with-held result’ figure for 2017 was 57.
This compared to 100 for 2016 and 101 in 2015.
Those suspected of cheating in the Leaving Cert this year represent a tiny proportion of the some 57,000 students to sit the exam this year.
Figures previously released by the SEC show that teenage boys were twice as likely to cheat in the 2017 Leaving Cert as teenage girls.
At each exam centre for the Leaving Cert across the country, notices are placed in prominent locations warning students of the penalties for cheating.
Students are warned that they are liable to have their whole examination cancelled if they bring in the likes of iPods, MP3/4 Players or mobile phones into the exam hall.
Students are also warned that they risk having their exam cancelled if they aid or attempt to aid another candidate or obtain or attempt to obtain aid from another candidate.
Candidates also face having their exam cancelled if they attempt to communicate with other students in the exam centre during the exam or by electronic means with people outside the centre.
The spokeswoman said: “In the interest of being fair to all candidates, the SEC must be satisfied that marks awarded have been gained fairly and will investigate any suggestion, suspicion or allegation of cheating or other impropriety in relation to the examinations.”
She added: “The SEC would strongly caution any student that might be tempted to cheat that serious consequences can result. They could lose marks or the full result in a subject; they could lose the results of the entire examination; or they could be debarred from entering for any of the State examinations for a specified period.”
The most common penalty applied is the withholding of the result in the subject in question. Where a more serious breach of the regulations occurs such as copying in more than one subject, withholding of all results and/or debarring from repeating the examination may be applied.
According to the SEC, cases of suspected cheating can come to light in a number of ways including: an examiner may detect similar work from more than one candidate when correcting work from the same centre or an examiner may discover memorandum, notes or paper brought in by a candidate in an attempt to gain an advantage in the examination.
Cheating can also be detected when an examination superintendent sees a candidate using prohibited items such as books, mobile phones or attempting to contact another candidate in the centre.