Home Office suspends English language tests

The Home Office has suspended an organisation’s English language tests for immigration purposes after cheating was allegedly uncovered on some exams.

February 10, 2014

Theresa May, the home secretary, told the education sector to “put its own house in order” following revelations about the immigration scam.

The BBC’s Panorama programme found that students were able to get others to take the Educational Testing Service (ETS) exams for them in order to get round English language requirements for student visas.

It found that an undercover reporter was able to pay £500 to an immigration consultancy for a “guaranteed pass” on the English tests.

When the reporter arrived at a college in East London, they found that all 14 candidates had their spoken and written tests taken for them by a “fake sitter”.

In a later multiple choice exam, the invigilator read out the correct answers to the students present.

Following the revelations, the Home Office has suspended ETS from administering English language tests for immigration purposes.

ETS, which provides the exams but does not invigilate them, told the BBC that it “does everything it can to detect and prevent rare instances of dishonest test administrators or test takers”.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme about the revelations, Theresa May, the home secretary, said that the education sector “doesn’t just need structural change, it needs cultural change”.

“Frankly, I’m afraid over time the education sector has consistently objected to the changes that we have been making,” she said. “They actually need to take some responsibility.”

In 2013, 100,000 interviews had been undertaken with prospective international students, she said, but now the Home Office was looking at how they could be expanded.

She added that the education sector should “put its own house in order.”

In a statement, Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “Theresa May promised she would tackle bogus students but allow the brightest and best to study in the UK. Yet once again, the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality. Instead abuse is getting worse, whilst genuine international graduate students are being put off.”

In a separate development on Saturday, the immigration minister Mark Harper resigned after it emerged that his cleaner did not permission to work in the UK.

He has been replaced by Conservative MP James Brokenshire, who previously held the crime and security brief in the Home Office.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

The exam delivery methods need further debate. Technology can play its part, but we still need to educate test takers and those who take care of test programmes. Six issues called out by the eAssessment Association: Service Encounter Remote Invigilation Invigilator Honour Code/ Contract CCTV Test Taker Responsibilities Using Big Data http://e-assessment.com/news/eaa-blog-bbc-panorama-show-exam-integrity

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