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What would you do . . . ? (Exam board regulations not being followed by dept member)

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by Ennazus23, Mar 14, 2013.

  1. I'm in the rather awkward position of having started as HOD in a new school in January. I'm obviously nearing the point now of getting year 11 controlled assessments ready for sending off to the exam board, but I've just today found out that the assessments that two of the classes have done prior to me starting were done against exam board regulations (i.e. they just copied up their drafts neatly rather than learning them and they read their presentations out for speaking assessments - I'm an MFL teacher). The class I inherited from my predecessor hadn't done any assessments at all before Christmas, so I've worked them really hard to get them up to date and everything they've done is above board. However, there is another teacher in my department who is responsible for the other 2 year 11 groups. I found out just today that her class hasn't been doing any of their assessments properly. My class had alluded to this in January when they told me it wasn't fair they were having to learn their speaking presentations when the other group were allowed to read them, so I spoke to the teacher concerned back then and she told me this wasn't the case. Obviously I had to take her word for it as I wasn't there to witness the assessments being done. However, it's come to light today that it is. We now have almost no time to get all of these students doing a new set of controlled assessments as they need to do 2 writings and 2 speakings, all of which take a great deal of time to prepare. Also, all their writing assessments were done before I started. Speaking assessments have been done since, but she had assured me they weren't cheating! Obviously if the exam board were to become suspicious, these students could all be disqualified. We are going to do some moderating over the course of the next few days so I will be listening closely to see if it's obvious they're reading their assessments. I will also be speaking to her again as she's only done one batch of speaking assessments so far and is scheduled to do the next lot next week. I will tell her in no uncertain terms that they have to do the next set of assessments properly. However, my concern then is that there will probably be a massive difference in quality between the assessments the students were allowed to cheat on and the assessments they had to learn and revise for. This would alert exam board suspicions even more. So I throw the question open to you - at this late stage, what would you do?
  2. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    Tough one. I don't teach MFL - I'm assuming the tapes are sent off and moderated? The biggest issue is that they may all be penalised if you don't do things by the book. I think you have to go to SLT, explain, ask for a one-off morning off timetable and get it done. Even if you weren't at the school when it happened, it's you facing the angry parents and disappointed kids if they're disqualified.
    Also, I don't believe in cheating! Do it honestly, or not at all. I'm totally with you on that.
  3. Agreed. You can't let the work stand. Is the evidence against the member of staff concrete? If it is, she needs to be disciplined in line with your school's policy. What she has done is probably tantamount to gross professional misconduct. She needs to know that what she has done is very wrong.
  4. Well here's where it gets even more interesting - the deputy head at my school has been investigated twice by exam boards for cheating! Not sure how much SLT support I'll get?! It seems to be generally encouraged in all the departments at my school to do whatever you need to do to get students their grades! I think the cheating that my colleague has done would have been as a result of the culture that is so rife at my school.
    At the moment, no concrete evidence, just a year 11 student telling the Head of Year 11 that she'd really messed up her speaking because she pronounced all the words wrong even though she was reading it! It's a 'teacher's word against the students' word' situation. I've got some department time tomorrow and have asked her to bring a selection of recordings along - we're going to listen to them to moderate but I'll also be listening to see if they sound "read". Will then have to take it from there.
    With MFL speaking, we mark them in school, but the exam board request 10 students' recordings for moderation.
    We're talking about 50 students being affected here! Not good!
  5. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    It's not uncommon these days.Half the country has been bending the rules for years

    Almost expected in a lot of academies. And as performance-related pay comes in it'll get worse as people have money depending on results etc.

    Should be fun. Welcome to state education.
  6. You've probably hit the nail on the head there Scintillant! A previous head of department of mine was even advocating this sort of cheating before PMR related pay came in. That was just to make her department look good. It's so sad - what is the point in a kid achieving a C grade if it's not really their own work in the first place. Totally devalues education!
  7. You must do something. How do you know that the parents of a disgruntled child who obeyed the rules will not complain to the board? Don't wait until then to carry out a full investigation; obviously you will have to tread carefully until you have concrete proof, but you do have a moral obligation to all students.
    As someone said earlier, I do not think the punishment would be limited to the classes who "cheated" if a misdemeanour was found to have happened. They'd all get penalised.
    This is a really difficult one, - you don't want it to feel like a witch hunt, but at the same time I would avoid investigating it on your own.
    All the best
  8. I think you need to carry out the moderation first to see if there is any evidence, although concrete evidence by listening to tapes is very difficult.
    As a moderator you have to be sure that malpractice has taken place and it is very difficult to prove. Although, if you have suspiscions you will now be able to eradict it next time (and in up an coming controlled assessments).
  9. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    Even if the tapes don't sound read, all it takes is a student or parent complaining to the exam board to get an investigation started. This happened a few years ago at my school; a student from one class complained that students from a different class had been allowed to draft a response, had written feedback on it, and then learned the draft. The exam board investigated fairly thoroughly - it was very very unpleasant, seriously upset the teacher and HoD involved, and undermined parental (and student) trust in the school and subject. It was awful, and it was totally unfounded. The exam board found no evidence of cheating, but the investigation was very unpleasant.
    Don't stand for it. PRP aside, I like to think that people have ethics and will do the right thing.
  10. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    Essentially she lied to you and put you in an impossible situation, so close to the deadline.
    You could scrap all the CAs done thus far, take students off timetable one day in early April and make them sit both speakings in one session, like the old style exam. The writings then could again be done back to back, in two hours, like the old style written exam. Yes it would be tough on your students, but it would also send a strong message that you will not stand for cheating and that you are prepared to have lower results rather than condone it.
    You are allowed to resit previous tasks if you change one bullet point (or the title for the writing) so I'd probably make the whole year group resit at least one task, preferably both to be on the safe side.
    I wouldn't trust listening to the tapes as a method for working out if it sounds read or not. Some of my students learn their task so well that it sounds read even though it's not.
    In future, if there are still trust issues, I'd conduct all the speakings myself and make them do the writings in mock exam sessions in the hall so that you can keep an eye on what's going on. I tend to do that for the writing as our students are constantly trying to cheat.
  11. Thanks all for the advice. I think the thing I have to do now is speak to the student who told the Head of Year 11 that her pronunciation was bad even when she was reading it. They're allowed plan sheets of 30 key words in with them so we need to get clarity on whether she meant she was reading the words on that sheet or just reading from her previously planned script. As yet, still no concrete evidence just what this student has said. It's hear say, but I know that hear say can be enough to prompt an investigation. My class, for example, seem to think that in previous years all the controlled assessments were done in this way, but then I started new in Jan and there could be an element of them trying to convince me to let them cheat and actually no such thing has gone on previously. Even at my last school where I was for 5 years, each of my GCSE groups tried to convince me that no one would know if they copied their drafts or read their presentations out! They were just trying it on in the hope they wouldn't have to revise so much!

    My plan for tomorrow when I have 3 free periods is to firstly get to speak to the teacher concerned again and have a full and frank discussion, secondly to find my line manager (who is also deputy head and it tends to feel like I'm hunting for a needle in a haystack but will try my hardest) and I think the off timetable day is a good idea. If nothing else, it might actually help students to improve as having listened to some of them for moderation on Friday, even our best students are falling down on the unseen questions and losing marks as a result. For the students, it could simply be a case of dressing it up to give them another chance of achieving a higher result last minute rather than telling them it's because cheating has gone on.

    Noemie, I like the idea of making them do the writing in the hall. Think I'll bear that in mind for our current year 10 students.

    Something else that this colleague has told me quite candidly is that the class I took over from my predecessor were always prepared properly for controlled assessments, following the guidelines. My predecessor used to stay at school til 6pm most days which allowed for intervention with weaker students, but it was a case of focusing on their grammar etc. to help them achieve higher marks, rather than writing the things for them. However, my colleague then went on to tell me that it wasn't practical for her to stay at school so late as she has children, so she would give them their tasks right at the beginning of year 10 and not actually get them to do the assessments until year 11 - that alone is against exam board regulations regardless of whether or not they then do the assessments in proper exam conditions! My way of preparing them is to teach for about 4 weeks all vocab/phrases related to the topic I'll be assessing them on, get them to do short written paragraphs here and there, read model texts and analyse them then give the task normally 3 lessons beforehand (6 hours is the guideline but that's too much) and point out that they've got everything they need in their books already, they just need to hunt through it and work out what's relevant when they're preparing. They keep their drafts at school (which they never understand as why do a draft if they can't take it home and revise from it and they always try to find loopholes there like copying their drafts into their books!) and then do the assessment in exam conditions.

    There is going to be some serious internal standardisation going on - number 1 on the agenda for next department meeting!
  12. Crowbob

    Crowbob Lead commenter

    Why not be involved in these aspects which will lessen the need for moderation later.
  13. Crowbob, I think I understand what you're saying. I've read that some teachers choose to moderate by having the HOD sit in the room at the same time as the other teacher is doing the assessment. It's possible that I can do a little of this, but I am doing 23 of my own assessments next week which is using up most of my free time. I will find out from her when exactly she is doing all her assessments - it's mostly during lesson time and having cover for the classes, but she is also using some of her frees, in which case I might happen to have a free at the same time as her. Failing that, the head of year 11 is also a French teacher (doesn't have year 11 French on her timetable ironically) - she has lots of frees so it might be possible for her to sit in and moderate a little.
  14. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    Ennazus you sound like you know exactly what's right and wrong about exam specs and that you have all your strategies worked out. Try and do your best to mop up what you can of this mess which was not your own, and put into place the safeguards that you've suggested to ensure that standards get better.
    You can't do everything all at once. This situation is a mess, but you have good instincts so don't panic if it's all too much to sort out in one month and a bit - things will fall into place with time!

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