Commenting on the report of the Malpractice Commission, of which we were a member, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“The NEU is proud that the report highlights the hard work and integrity demonstrated by almost all students, exams officers and education professionals in executing a highly efficient, trustworthy and effective exams system.
“Although instances of malpractice are exceptionally small - less than 0.02% of all entries at GCSE and A-Level - it is important that we strive to eliminate them entirely, as any occurrence can lead to disproportionate mistrust and ultimately undermine the system. As such the recommendations to spread best practice and take advantage of technological advances in order to help prevent malpractice, where it does occur, are sensible.
“However, the punitive, high-stakes accountability system we have in England creates a toxic, competitive culture in which the pressure to achieve results is excessive, unnecessary and damaging to the health of all involved. When education professionals’ pay and job security is on the line, based upon inspection outcomes and exam results, it would be wrong to ignore the impacts of such a system on malpractice.
“It is also welcomed that the report highlights the vital place in the assessment system for coursework and practical assessments. Many qualifications would be unable to operate without non-exam assessment and many of those which have seen it removed have become tests of rote memorisation, rather than assessments of pupils' true skills and knowledge.
“It is too simplistic to suggest that all qualifications should be assessed entirely via exam because they are perceived to be harder to cheat on or easier to administer. Even where it is possible, assessing solely via exams reduces the opportunities for students to demonstrate what they know and can do and narrows the curriculum to that which is easiest to test.”