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Scanners thwart exam cheats

Pupils who smuggle mobile phones into their GCSEs or A-levels in an attempt to bamboozle the authorities are in for an unpleasant reception

Some UK schools have begun using equipment that can detect mobile-phone signals in an attempt to clamp down on high-tech cheating methods.

Throughout the educational community, concern is growing that students are using their mobile phones to access the Internet, send emails and text messages and use cameras to unfairly discover answers.

The popularity of camera phones has raised even more concern, as students could use them to take detailed information such as tables and diagrams from text books into the exam room.

In the recently finished GCSE exams, some UK schools took the initiative of using electronic scanners that can detect transmissions from mobile phones within a 40 foot radius. They can be fitted to an invigilator's belt or placed on a table, and will sound an alarm if a mobile phone is being used in the exam room.

The scanners have been successfully tested at several schools throughout the UK during this summer's public exams. Heathland School in the London borough of Hounslow, for example, said its scanner acted as a visible warning to students to keep their phones switched off.

"The students knew it was there, and so we didn't have any incidents," said Nigel Roper, deputy headmaster at Heathland. "It's OK for detecting mobile phones, but it's better as a deterrent."

All Hallows High School in Preston also said it used scanners. The devices have received the full support of the Association of Head Teachers.

If scanners prove popular with teachers they could be a windfall for some technology companies, as there are well over 25,000 schools in the UK.

So far this year there have been over 350 cases of students being caught with mobile phones during their exams and this number is expected to rise to 500 by the end of this year. Half the students that have been caught cheating in this way this year have been disqualified.


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