Teacher who helped students cheat in exams reprimanded

Qualifying as a teacher is a tougher process than it was in Cameron Wyllie's day
Qualifying as a teacher is a tougher process than it was in Cameron Wyllie's day
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A teacher has been reprimanded for helping pupils to cheat in their exams.

Heather Dixon, a home economics teacher, breached Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) rules by rewriting assignments for pupils.

Mrs Dixon, who teaches at a high school in Argyll and Bute, also sent two pupils another student’s work and told them to copy parts of it.

Her misconduct took place between February and May 2017 when pupils in her class were undertaking National 5 assessments for the Health and Food Technology Course.

The pupils’ assignment work were considered by external markers at the SQA as being so similar that the exam body referred the matter to the school for a candidate malpractice investigation.

The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), following a hearing in Edinburgh, decided her fitness to practice was impaired and that actions were “dishonest” and “lacked integrity”.

The panel rejected striking her off and instead imposed a reprimand and a two year conditional registration order.

In a written ruling, the GTCS said: “The misconduct was serious as it involved dishonest behaviour whereby the intention was to place the pupils concerned at an unfair advantage.

“There was also an intention to mislead the SQA, as the external examiner, into believing the work was that of the pupils when it was not. In effect, the teacher substituted her work for that of the pupils.

“The teacher’s fitness to teach is impaired by reason of the fact that her actions firstly caused harm to the pupils at the time the similarities in texts were discovered and the SQA accused them of cheating.

“By doing what she did, the teacher brought the profession into disrepute and the school’s own standards were called into question.

“The panel considered that given her insight since the incident, the risk of repetition was very low and the teacher had learned from the experience. As a result, the panel considered it highly unlikely that she would behave in such a fashion again.”

The disciplinary hearing was told Mrs Dixon emailed copies of a pupil’s assignment to two other pupils and told them to copy parts of it, advising them to change the wording.

She also rewrote the assignments of three pupils and emailed the work back to them.

Mrs Dixon, who has been a teacher for more than 30 years, told the GTCS she had been “merely trying to help the pupils” and had made “an error of judgement”.

She explained that, at the time, she was also assisting her daughter by checking and correcting her university degree work, and had inadvertently adopted a similar approach to her pupils’ work.

The panel was told she had been given a final written warning by her employers as a result of the incident.

Figures released last month showed record numbers of teachers have been caught providing improper levels of coaching to help pupils gain qualifications.

The SQA said 143 cases of teacher malpractice had been proved in 2017/18 compared to just 51 the previous year.

The figures have jumped after the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence, which placed less of an emphasis on the final exam in qualifications such as National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher.

Coursework supervised by teachers now counts towards more of the final mark.

An Argyll and Bute Council spokesman said: “It is the council’s policy not to comment on individual cases.”

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