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71 Leaving Cert students have results withheld over suspected cheating

Seventy-one students who sat the Leaving Certificate this year have not been given their results over fears that they may have cheated.

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) confirmed on Wednesday that a total of 51 Leaving Certificate/Leaving Certificate Applied results have been permanently withheld at the 2019 Leaving Certificate.

An SEC spokeswoman stated: “This includes 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 in addition “the SEC has provisionally withheld 20 other results, on a without prejudice basis, pending further communication with the schools and candidates concerned.”

The combined 71 total for the 2019 Leaving Certificate/Leaving Cert Applied compares to 72 results permanently withheld for the 2018 exams.

The 2018 total was a sharp increase on the 57 results permanently withheld in 2017.

These totals followed 100 results with-held for 2016 and 101 for 2015.

Students appear more prone to cheating in the Leaving Certificate than the Junior Cert - last year 35 Junior Cert results were permanently withheld amid suspicion of cheating and this followed 11 cases in 2017.

Those suspected of cheating in the Leaving Cert this year represent a tiny proportion of the approximately 57,000 students to sit the exam this year.

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 spokeswoman 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.”

She 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.

She added: “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.