LONDON (Reuters) - England’s exam regulator has ordered an investigation into allegations of cheating at two of the country’s most prestigious fee-paying boys’ schools.
Ofqual said it was reviewing whether teachers should be allowed to set question papers after cheating allegations at Eton College and Winchester College, which charge more than 30,000 pounds ($39,000) a year.
Top fee-paying schools in Britain represent big business, attracting a large number of foreign pupils - although the vast majority of British children attend state-funded schools and undertake a different exam system.
“We will conduct a review of the rules under which serving teachers take part in writing and reviewing question papers, and the safeguards in place to prevent disclosure of confidential information,” Ofqual said in its statement late on Thursday.
Schools minister Nick Gibb said the investigation was crucial for the public to have confidence in the integrity of the exam system.
Several British newspapers reported last week that teachers had passed information to pupils before exams taken by students in their last year at school, usually at the age of 17 or 18.
The two teachers were reported by British newspapers to have been working as examiners for Cambridge International Examinations (CIE).
Eton College did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters, but a statement from the school was quoted in Britain’s Guardian newspaper as saying the teacher concerned had left the school.
“Eton took this matter extremely seriously and co-operated fully with CIE’s investigation throughout,” it said.
Winchester College said it was treating the matter with the “utmost seriousness” and a teacher had retired from the school. “(The college) greatly regrets what has happened. No boy was to blame for the exam irregularity,” it said in a statement.
Both cases involved CIE’s Pre-U certificates, which in fee-paying schools are widely taken as alternatives to the A-level exams at state-funded schools and are run by a department of Cambridge University.
CIE told Reuters it had conducted its own investigation and said the allegations involved the Pre-U Art History and Pre-U Economics examinations. CIE said no other schools were involved. ($1 = 0.7723 pounds)
Reporting by Fanny Potkin; Editing by Alison Williams