No ban for head who changed pupils' SPaG test answers

Misconduct panel found a strong public interest in retaining ex-head in teaching, despite his 'dishonest' actions

Claudia Civinini

head escapes ban

An ex-head who dishonestly changed pupils' national spelling, punctuation and grammar test answers to make them correct has escaped a ban from teaching.

Christopher Aitken admitted to altering the key stage 2 test scripts of nine pupils from two schools in 2018 when he was head of the Cantley and Horning Federation in Norfolk. 

Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) panel has found that his actions were dishonest and that he "had failed to act with integrity". They said that he had "seriously departed from the personal and professional conduct elements of the Teachers’ Standards".

However the panel decided against banning Mr Aitken, who has gone on to teach at another school.

It found "substantial evidence that Mr Aitken had made a valuable and significant contribution to the profession over the 14 years in which he had been a teacher" and that his conduct in this case was “completely out of character and an aberration”.

In January 2019, the Standards and Testing Agency contacted Horning Primary School with concerns about maladministration of the SPaG test, and in April it had the same communication with Cantley Primary School.

Mr Aitken resigned on notice in March 2019 to start a new job as a teacher in another school in September 2019.

On 23 April 2019, the report notes, he informed the Cantley and Horning Federation that that he had made alteration to test scripts from the May 2018 session in both schools. He was dismissed and the federation made a referral to the TRA in August 2019.

The panel determined that, as Mr Aitken had admitted, he had made “pushthroughs” to some of the answers, meaning he had inserted a letter in pupils’ answers to provide the correct spelling.

However, the panel observed that his actions had been limited in time and scope, and that there was a strong and substantial public interest consideration in retaining Mr Aitken in the profession, since no doubt had been cast on his ability and professionalism apart from the events of May 2018.

The panel also found Mr Aitken to accept full responsibility for his actions and to be “wholly remorseful”.

Several colleagues also gave statements in support of retaining Mr Aitken in the profession. One colleague pointed out that he had a positive impact on some of the most vulnerable students at the school he works in, saying "to lose Mr Aitken would be devastating”.

Another highlighted the stress Mr Aitken was under as a headteacher. They said: “I have offered to write this statement today for two reasons. Firstly, Chris made a mistake, he has taken accountability for it, and has and still is paying the consequences of his actions.

“Secondly, because not many people know better than me what Chris and the other headteachers of our schools have had to deal with, the immense stress they have been put under and how this affected their mental health.”

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Claudia Civinini

Claudia Civinini

Find me on Twitter @claudiacivinini

Latest stories