CEO Message - June 2024 : The importance of reporting incidents of malpractice

In recent weeks, the NAEO has received several communications from exams officers asking for advice and guidance as they are faced with a difficult situation - where their senior leader/head of centre is refusing to report a case of suspected/actual malpractice to the relevant awarding body/bodies.

One of the key elements of the exams officer role is to maintain the integrity and security of the examination system, and therefore, a failure to report a candidate when they engage in suspected/actual malpractice – however minor - puts an exams officer in conflict with the values and attributes which they are required to display. 

In short, JCQ regulations require that the head of centre must notify the appropriate awarding body immediately of all alleged, suspected or actual incidents of malpractice (see JCQ Suspected Malpractice: Policies and Procedures, section 4.1.3).

Why some senior leaders/heads of centres may be reluctant to report incidents of malpractice

Despite the clarity provided by the JCQ regulations, there are some senior leaders/heads of centres who fail to report incidents of malpractice. This may be due to several reasons, including a lack of awareness of the regulations, or an attempt to protect the reputation of their centre.

However, by signing the Head of centre declaration (an annual requirement each October), a head of centre is confirming that their centre is adhering to the regulations and guidelines and therefore a centre has no option but to report all incidents of malpractice regardless of the nature or scale of the incident.

It should also be highlighted to heads of centres that malpractice data is not reported by centre, so there is no disadvantage or impact upon a centre when reporting malpractice.  

What are the consequences of not reporting incidents of malpractice?

Senior leaders and heads of centres must be aware of the sanctions which may be imposed upon their centre if they fail to report an incident of malpractice.

Appendix 4 and 5 of JCQ’s Suspected Malpractice: Policies and Procedures publication provide indicative sanctions which may be placed upon the centre or centre staff if incidents of malpractice are not reported to relevant awarding body. These include being placed under ‘special conditions’ for ‘failure to report a low-impact incident of malpractice, and ‘suspension’ for ‘failure to report a significant case of malpractice’.

Your centre’s whistleblowing policy

It is a JCQ requirement for a centre to have a written whistleblowing policy in place (see JCQ’s General Regulations for Approved Centres, section 5.3z). This centre-specific policy will refer to the actions/procedure which an individual should take/follow if they have any concerns about the management, administration and conduct of examinations.

The whistleblowing policy is in place to create and maintain an approach to examinations that reflects an ethical culture, and to encourage staff and students to be aware of and report practices that could compromise the integrity and security of examinations. This includes compliance with section 5.11 of the JCQ’s General Regulations for Approved Centres publication which requires centres and centre staff to:

  • take all reasonable steps to prevent the occurrence of any malpractice (which includes maladministration) before, during and after assessments have taken place
  • inform the awarding body immediately of any alleged, suspected or actual incidents of malpractice or maladministration, involving a candidate or a member of staff, by completing the appropriate documentation
  • as required by an awarding body, gather evidence of any instances of alleged or suspected malpractice (which includes maladministration) in accordance with the JCQ document Suspected Malpractice: Policies and Procedures and provide such information and advice as the awarding body may reasonably require

If an exams officer is concerned that an incident of malpractice is not being dealt with/reported in line with JCQ regulations, they should consult their centre’s whistleblowing policy and follow the procedures detailed within this policy.

The Exams Officer Professional Standards

The NAEO encourages all exams officers to engage with the Exams Officer Professional Standards on an annual basis to support and evidence their professional development.

By adhering to these standards, an exams officer is also protecting themselves against situations such as the non-reporting of malpractice, as you will be duty bound to maintain the integrity of the examination system. If an exams officer is instructed to take any actions which threaten the integrity and security of the examination system within their centre, they will have the full support and protection offered by the NAEO.

The standards consist of three elements:

  • Developing your knowledge and understanding
  • Developing your skills
  • Adhering to the values and attributes of the role

The third element – values and attributes – becomes very significant when an exams officer learns that their senior leader/head of centre has decided not to report an incident of malpractice.

By signing a Values and Attributes statement – which is a requirement to achieve the standards – an exams officer is confirming that they will report incidents of malpractice, and will be supported and protected in situations where they are compromised by, or put under pressure to accept, centre decisions which may not adhere to JCQ and awarding body regulations.


“Failure by a centre to notify, investigate and report to an awarding body all allegations of malpractice or suspected malpractice constitutes malpractice in itself.” (JCQ Suspected Malpractice: Policies and Procedures, section 1.7)

Senior leaders/heads of centres must report incidents of malpractice regardless of their nature. They are required to adhere to JCQ regulations and failure to do so would be construed as malpractice and lead to the imposition of penalties.

It should be noted that during the pre-exams briefing given to candidates, a definition of malpractice was provided to candidates as were the consequences for failing to adhere to the regulations and engaging in malpractice. Therefore, a failure to report incidents of malpractice will not only undermine the significance of adhering to JCQ regulations, but it will also undermine the role of the exams officer and the authority of the invigilators.

Monthly Message Archive