Growing numbers of primary schools in England are being investigated for cheating during SATs exams with experts saying that schools and teachers are under growing pressure to obtain good results which is leading to more cheating taking place.

In a report, the Standards and Testing Agency says that 599 schools have been investigated for maladministration during 2017’s SATs exams.

In 2016, there were 524 cases – a rise of 14% between the two years.

The agency says that the number of cases that led to exam results being an annulled or amended because of maladministration has also risen.

According to the figures, in Key Stage 1, 19 cases lead to results being annulled, compared with two in the year before.

In Key Stage 2, the number of cases being annulled rose from 65 in 2016 to 78 last year.

Primary school pupils who have been cheating

The agency says that maladministration includes instances of primary school pupils who have been cheating and the ‘over-aiding’ of children by teachers. The agency also says that any change made to a test paper by someone other than the pupil is also considered to be maladministration.

The agency’s report comes after several high-profile schools have been caught out in recent months.

In one case, one school praised by ministers was forced to become an academy after teachers were found to be over-aiding their pupils with their SATs.

However, data from September is pointing to an increasingly serious situation with 2,688 such results being suppressed because of ongoing maladministration investigations, compared to 723 last year.

Tougher tests for Year 2 and Year 6 pupils

The big rise comes after tougher tests for Year 2 and Year 6 pupils were introduced in 2016 by the government.

One organisation that represents parents and education organisations, More Than a Score, says that ‘a toxic system has been created’ with schools and teachers being judged on children’s SATs results.

A spokeswoman said: “It’s no surprise that some staff and schools will cheat to avoid being downgraded by Ofsted, being academised or being paid less or even sacked.”

She added that the tests have been made more difficult deliberately and there’s no evidence to suggest that children can catch up, which adds pressure to schools and teachers ‘to bend the rules’.

The organisation says that SATs should be scrapped in a bid to resolve the worsening situation and instead schools should be judged more broadly and other types of assessment that are standard in schools outside England should be introduced.

The DfE declined to comment.