A surge in the detection of suspected cheating in this year's Leaving Cert exams has resulted in 62 students having results permanently withheld by the State Examinations Commission (SEC).
New figures provided by the SEC on Friday show that 62 exam results from the Leaving Cert/Leaving Cert Applied have been permanently with-held this year with the SEC confirming that it has provisionally withheld an additional 10 Leaving Cert results, on a without prejudice basis, pending further communication with the schools and candidates concerned.
The 62 exam results “permanently withheld” by the SEC this year “includes full results withheld, or marks withheld, from candidates found to be in breach of the SEC's examinations regulations”.
The 62 ‘permanently withheld’ results are open to appeal and the 62 is more than double the 26 results that were permanently withheld from students who sat the 2021 Leaving Certificate last year.
The 26 results permanently withheld from Leaving Cert students last year followed “the conclusion of all review and appeal processes”.
For last year’s Leaving Cert, the SEC, at the outset, provisionally with-held 45 Leaving Certificate results of students suspected of cheating.
On the 62 students to have results with-held this year, a spokesman for the SEC stated “due to the small number of candidates involved, for privacy reasons, we do not provide any regional or gender breakdown”.
The 62 students found to be in breach of SEC exam regulations this year is a tiny fraction of the 60,210 candidates who registered for the Leaving Certificate examination this year and the 3,173 candidates who registered for the final year examinations in the Leaving Certificate Applied.
The SEC spokesman explained: "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.
He said: “Withholding of results occurs as a consequence of a candidate attempting to gain advantage in the examination by means which contravene the regulations for the conduct of candidates during examinations as set out in the Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools.”
Cases of suspected cheating can come to light in a number of ways, according to the SEC.
These include where an examiner may detect similar work from more than one candidate when correcting work from the same centre or an examination superintendent may detect a candidate using prohibited items such as books, mobile phones etc or attempting to contact another candidate in the centre.
The SEC spokesman said: “The principles of natural justice are applied when following up such cases. 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 explained that 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”.
He said: “The final decision is communicated in writing to the candidate again via his/her school. A decision to withhold a result is open to appeal. 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.”
He said: “In these circumstances results are withheld on a without prejudice basis pending further communication with the schools and candidates concerned."
According to the SEC, 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.
The SEC stated: "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."