'No excuses' warning over mobiles in exam hall
PUPILS were warned yesterday they could have their exam papers torn up if they don't ditch their mobile phones.
Last year, 115 candidates were reported by invigilators for having mobiles on them in the exam hall. Of those, 63 had their award cancelled for using their phone to cheat, and 52 were cleared after an investigation found they had simply forgotten to hand mobiles in beforehand.
Many pupils depend on exam results to win college and university places, and most were forced to wait until their exam results came through the post or went online in August to find out if their qualification had been scratched.
The new warning was issued after a 15-year-old boy in Aberdeenshire claims he was told his paper would be void because he had his phone in his pocket.
He alerted the invigilator, appointed by the exam board, only four minutes into the test but was told a report would have to be filed.
The boy's father said he feared his son would suffer for his honesty. He said: "He handed the phone in for the first paper then took it out to make a call in the break and forgot to return it to the box. He is being punished for being honest.
"What bothers him most is that people now believe he was cheating when it was an honest mistake. What if a university or college place was dependent on this result?"
Mobiles are banned to prevent candidates storing notes in them or accessing the internet to cheat, and to prevent others sitting the exam from being disturbed by noisy ringtones.
Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) regulations state that invigilators must ensure any phone found is removed and that the pupil finishes the exam. The phone will be examined immediately to see if there are any signs it has been used to access information that may assist the student in the exam.
Invigilators, who are employed by the SQA and not by schools, must then submit a report on the incident, in which they can declare whether they believe it was an innocent mistake or cheating.
A spokesman for Aberdeenshire Council said pupils had been told repeatedly at assemblies and in letters to their parents that they must not have mobile phones during exams.
In the case of the 15-year-old boy, he said: "We have to make it clear the invigilator did not say the exam was invalid when the matter came to light.
"At the end of the exam, the chief invigilator and our SQA co-ordinator explained to the pupil that a report of the incident has to be sent to the SQA and that this may mean his paper has to be cancelled.
"As per SQA procedures, the chief invigilator has written a report to the SQA about the incident, which states that she believes this was a genuine error.
"This was a genuine mistake with no attempt to or opportunity to make use of the phone during the exam."
A malpractice committee made up of three senior SQA staff will decide on this, and all other reports of potential cheating during this year's exams, which began early this month and continue into early June.
The school, the candidate and his or her parents then have the right to appeal.
Judith Gillespie, the policy development officer for the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: "We hope all invigilators at the start of each exam take the time to remind youngsters that, if they have phones with them, they should hand them in.
"It should be part of the routine at the beginning of every exam."
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