Highland Council has been ordered to apologise to a pupil accused of cheating in an exam because of the way it dealt with his case.
The 16-year-old’s English teacher allegedly showed him an exam paper and answers prior to him sitting the test, and the school, understood to be Lochaber High, later challenged him about it.
The internally-verified exam in January 2013 counted towards his final mark in the subject.
A report by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, Jim Martin, reveals that the school was suspicious after marking his paper and the unaccompanied youngster was interviewed by the head teacher and depute head teacher on January 23, 2013.
The youth’s father, identified only as Mr C, was unhappy with the way his son was treated and complained to Highland Council. He believed that the youngster was coerced into a confession.
Mr C was dissatisfied with the local authority’s response and complained to the ombudsman that the council failed to follow Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) guidance on dealing with exam malpractice.
He was also unhappy that an adult had not been present when his son, identified only as Mr A, was interviewed.
Mr Martin has now upheld the main complaint and told the council to write to the teenager apologising for its failures by the end of January.
He also said that the local authority should make secondary schools aware of the outcome of the case and the importance of following guidance.
A third recommendation says the council should liaise with the SQA about how its documents procedures for dealing with similar cases.
Mr Martin said that during his investigation, the school claimed it followed SQA guidance.
The Highland Council also said that it could not identify advice as to whether the SQA documents were advisory or mandatory.
However the SQA told the investigation that they were mandatory. The SQA also stated that it would have expected a parent or guardian to be present during the school’s investigation.
Mr Martin said: “While the council and the school were clear that pupils were in no doubt that cheating was unacceptable and I accept this, I have seen no evidence that Mr A was informed of his rights in terms of SQA advice, either before, during or after the meeting on January 23, 2013.
“This runs contrary to the guidance provided.”
A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “The care and learning service is reviewing the advice issued to head teachers on this matter and revised guidelines will be issued by the end of January.
“The family has not received the letter of apology yet but will do so by the specified deadline.
“An internal investigation was carried out by the authority using the normal disciplinary procedures. The member of staff was not reported to the General Teaching Council.”