Forty-five students who sat the Covid 19-hit Leaving Certificate this year have not been given results over fears that they have cheated.
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) confirmed on Wednesday that a total of 45 Leaving Certificate results have been provisionally withheld from students who sat this year’s State exams.
An SEC spokesman stated that the results have been provisionally held across a range of subjects — Irish, English Mathematics, Geography, French, Art, Chemistry, Business, Politics and Society, Construction Studies and the Leaving Cert Vocational Programme.
The spokesman stated: “These include full results withheld, or marks withheld, from candidates found to be in breach of the SEC’s examinations regulations.”
The decision to withhold a result or marks is open to appeal.
The spokesman confirmed that the 45 results provisionally withheld compares to 57 grades in Leaving Certificate examinations and 11 grades in Junior Cycle examinations withheld in 2019.
He stated that no data is presented for 2020 due to the small cohort of candidates who sat the deferred exams.
Seventy-two Leaving Cert results were permanently withheld for the 2018 exams which was a sharp increase on the 57 results permanently withheld in 2017.
These totals followed 100 results withheld for 2016 and 101 for 2015.
Those suspected of cheating in the Leaving Cert this year represents a tiny proportion of the 60,000 students to sit the Leaving Cert this year when 87 per cent chose a combination of written exams and accredited grades.
The spokesman confirmed that principles of natural justice are applied when following up cases of suspected cheating.
He said: “Details of the evidence available, such as superintendent’s reports, confiscated material or items, notes or work prepared that exhibits evidence of collusion, is given to the candidate through his/her school.”
He added: “The candidate is invited to offer a response to the evidence presented and the school authorities are also free to offer comment if they consider it appropriate. The final decision is communicated in writing to the candidate again via his/her school.”
The spokesman said: “While every effort is made to conclude an investigation prior to the issue of the examination results, it is not always possible to do so. In these circumstances results are withheld on a without prejudice basis pending further communication with the schools and candidates concerned.”
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 spokesman 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.”
He said: “This is essential in order to uphold the integrity of the Irish State examinations system and to underpin equity and fairness within the system in order to enable all candidates to display their achievements on an equal footing.
“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.
The SEC spokesman stated: “Any incidence of suspected copying, improper assistance from another party, plagiarism or procurement of pieces prepared by another party are thoroughly investigated by the SEC and the candidate is liable to have penalties imposed as provided for in the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools.”