Us­ing tu­tors for course­work is just an­other form of cheat­ing

The Jewish Chronicle - - EDUCATION - BY LEAH PENNISI-GLASER

LAST YEAR, I had to sit the new English and maths GCSEs and I’ll be frank: the ex­pe­ri­ence was hard. There were no past papers, no grade bound­aries and lit­tle guid­ance from teach­ers, who told me and my fel­low pupils they “didn’t have the fog­gi­est”. But I was still happy to sit the new ex­ams. There is no course­work el­e­ment in the new struc­ture and that’s a step to­wards ed­u­ca­tion equal­ity.

The­o­ret­i­cally, con­trolled as­sess­ments are a great idea. They of­fer stu­dents who don’t per­form well un­der exam con­di­tions the chance to show what they can do in a long es­say. How­ever, in re­al­ity, course­work be­came a vir­tual by­word for cheat­ing.

When the gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced the new sys­tem, it put an end to years of mid­dle-class kids pay­ing tu­tors to write their as­sess­ments for them.

When I was in year 10 of my main­stream com­pre­hen­sive, a teacher handed out what she de­scribed as an “ex­em­plary” es­say. A cou­ple of para­graphs in, it be­came ob­vi­ous it had not been penned by the 14-year-old girl whose name was on the front sheet. Teenagers do not gen­er­ally use words like “quixotic”.

I eyed the teacher war­ily and asked her if she thought the pupil had maybe had some help. The re­sponse was a weak smile and a mur­mur­ing that she’s “a very bright girl.”

“Yeah, she is clever, but her tu­tor’s even clev­erer,” a class­mate smirked.

My friend Saul told me the prac­tice was wide­spread among his con­tem­po­raries with up to a third of his year hav­ing used tu­tors to write course­work for their his­tory and drama GCSEs. In mod­ern for­eign lan­guages, he reck­ons the fig­ure was much higher, around three­quar­ters. This was more or less in line with what I heard from teens rev­el­ling in post-GCSE eu­pho­ria last sum­mer. Around half of two dozen peo­ple I spoke to said they had used tu­tors to help them write their course­work.

And they didn’t all re­alise they had nec­es­sar­ily done any­thing wrong. Ev­ery­one knew get­ting a tu­tor to pro­duce an en­tire es­say was a no-no, but some thought tu­tors mak­ing sug­ges­tions, mark­ing and even writ­ing chunks of course­work was more or less kosher. When I put this to teach­ers at my school, they said ab­so­lutely not.

Saul thinks staff are be­tween a rock and hard place. “What can they ac­tu­ally do? They al­most cer­tainly won’t have any hard ev­i­dence of what they sus­pect has taken place, and they can hardly make ex­am­ples of pupils by kick­ing them off the course. They’d have hardly any stu­dents left!”

Mean­while, Talia — whose par­ents, like many others, couldn’t af­ford a tu­tor — thinks cheat­ing cre­ated a so­cial di­vide. “I worked so hard for my GCSEs and I ended up do­ing quite well. But, on re­sults day, I saw all these kids that, on pa­per, had done as well or bet­ter than me. It made me so an­gry be­cause those grades were not their real achieve­ments.”

My friend So­phie was star­tlingly straight. “My tu­tor wrote out my French course­work for me, so I could read it out in my oral exam. I was pre­dicted a D but thanks to her I ended up get­ting an A.”

Around half said they had used tu­tors to help them’

First names in this ar­ti­cle have been changed

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