Students caught cheating on HSC at prestigious school
HSC students at prestigious King's School were busted cheating on an HSC assessment task but escaped punishment because a teacher decided "the individual cannot be held to account for a matter reflective of a cultural or systemic issue".
Dozens of Year 12 students plagiarised course notes for a speech about a Shakespeare play in a HSC English course earlier this year.
Students initially received zero or reduced marks for trying to pass off resources given to them during English classes as their own.
But after speaking to parents, head English teacher Phillip Taylor claimed the penalties didn't fit the offence and students could "redo" the assessment as an essay.
"It is clear, and many of you have acknowledged, that a number of our boys have copied work that is not of their own doing," he wrote in the May 24 letter obtained by The Daily Telegraph.
"Whilst the penalties applied do represent a response to plagiarism commensurate with both NESA (the National Education Standards Authority) and School policy … I do fear (having listened to you, the boys, my colleagues and my wife) that they do not serve the purposes for which they were intended.
"In essence, that the individual cannot be held to account for a matter reflective of a cultural or systemic issue."
Before they begin their HSC, students must complete a NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) unit of study called All My Own Work - which tells students explicitly what constitutes cheating and states plagiarism is "unethical and dishonest".
NESA data from last year shows that most students get zero marks or reduced marks for plagiarism in NSW. Seven per cent got a warning, while 1 per cent got no penalty.
Parents of the students who didn't cheat said the school should have never bowed to pressure to scrap the original penalty, and that doing so was sending a message to students you can get away with cheating. One parent said that they understood dozens of students were originally penalised.
"One of the reasons we chose The King's School was for its values of integrity," the parent said.
English Teachers' Association NSW Executive Officer Eva Gold said schools shouldn't have to submit to parent demands because they're paying the school fees.
"Parents are not customers, students are students and it is not a business - it is education," she said.
"I know a lot of parents do apply a business mentality to education but that is not correct. The school has a responsibility to engender in the students not just an interest in learning, but also a sense of honesty - that is also what the parents are paying for."
A NESA spokesman said there were no mandatory penalties for plagiarism but schools were required to maintain a register of all substantiated incidence of malpractice.
The King's School did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.