Kids as young as seven in Britain could be asked to sign "honesty codes" at schools in a drive to stamp out plagiarism and cheating in national curriculum tests and exams.
The "honesty codes" system is widely in use in the United States, could be introduced in primary as well as secondary schools, and universities, cut down on cheating, said Isabel Nisbet, acting chief executive of Ofqual, the school exams watchdog.
Parents would be sent a letter spelling out unacceptable behaviour in exams, under the proposals.
Nisbet, who was addressing a conference on plagiarism at Northumbria University in Newcastle, said: "They [the children] sign up to a code which determines what's acceptable practice and what's not. The fact that they're signing up to it focuses the mind on it."
"It is used in higher education - particularly in the States but it can work with very young children, too. After all, they have to make a difficult transition from working in groups together to suddenly being told they're on their own and they mustn't look at other children's. They can grasp the concept of 'this should be my work'," the Independent quoted her, as saying.
The codes, which could cover national curriculum tests for seven, 11 and 14-year-olds, GCSEs, A-levels and degrees, would promote "virtue" in exam practice, she said, adding:"I would welcome their use. I think we could learn from them."
The conference heard that Ofqual, newly set up to act as an exams regulator independent from the Government, will produce a new set of rules next spring about acceptable practice in exams.
They will be drafted in tandem with plagiarism specialists from Northumbria University and sent to parents to tell them how far they can go in helping children with their coursework for GCSE exams.