A primary school head teacher has been banned from the profession for cheating in key stage 2 Sats.
Naheed Parveen Earl, former headteacher of Lowerplace Primary School in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, gave pupils extra time and ordered staff to help pupils during the tests.
She was found by a Teacher Regulation Agency misconduct panel to have instructed her staff to engage in “maladministration” of Year 6 Sats between 9 May and 12 May 2016.
The panel found that prior to the Sats she had sent staff emails "of a bullying or threatening nature" and that the head "bullied or intimidated some members of staff".
"This was the context in which Ms Earl instructed some members of staff to engage in maladministration," the report said.
On 16 May 2016, the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) received an allegation that pupils at Lowerplace had been “over-aided” in their Sats. She was suspended a few days later pending a disciplinary investigation.
Four of her teachers – Cathryn Bolton, deputy headteacher, Adele Honeyman, assistant headteacher and teachers Gail Marsh and Katy Yates – later admitted that maladministration had taken place at the school, and were also suspended.
In June 2016 the STA annulled all of the school’s KS2 Sats results.
According to evidence presented to the panel, Ms Earl drew up lists of pupils and highlighted children to “target” during their Sats.
The lists identified the classroom in which each group of pupils would be located and the initials of the staff members who would be in each room.
A local authority moderator arrived at the school on the day of the reading test to check that the school was following the Sats guidance. When the moderator was present, test papers were opened in the area outside the classrooms and distributed to children immediately. But on the subsequent days, the papers were opened in Ms Earl’s office beforehand, which is against the rules.
After the visit of the moderator, Ms Earl was alleged to have said: “Expect our reading results to take a nose-dive this year, so we need to make sure that the other results do not do the same…We have been moderated now so we will be left alone for the rest of the tests.”
On the morning of the spelling, punctuation and grammar paper, two teachers stated that Ms Earl started to complete the paper before leaving her room.
When the pupils took the test, they were given extra time – there was no clock on the wall and no start and finish time displayed.
Two of the teachers – Ms Yates and Ms Marsh – said that they were instructed by Ms Earl that if a pupil made a mistake they should ask them to “read the question carefully” or to “just check that one”.
Ms Yates said that in the break time after the test she was summoned to Ms Earl’s office, and told to “go and get” one pupil to “give him extra time as his answers are shocking”.
On the same day during paper 2 of the Spag test, children were again given longer than the allotted time. A teaching assistant witness said they observed Ms Bolton helping a pupil by saying “swap those letters around”.
On the day of the maths paper, Ms Earl was again seen opening the test paper in her room and writing answers on it. The panel said it was “satisfied” that this was done “for the purpose of assisting the pupils”.
According to multiple accounts, one of these “teacher copies” later went missing, and was feared to have been handed out to one of the pupils. Witnesses said Ms Honeyman went into the exam room and said “Stop. Nobody touch anything. Someone has got the golden ticket.”
After the school was informed that an STA fact-finding exercise would take place, the four teachers who were later suspended said they were called to a meeting with Ms Earl, in which she gave them “a list of timings as to when the tests had taken place”. The panel also saw screenshots of text messages in which Ms Earl stated she had “written out a few questions and so wanted to go through them with us four”.
Ms Earl denied the allegations against her, but did not give evidence at the hearing.
During the disciplinary investigation led by the local council, she claimed that the investigation had been biased against her and “motivated by racial discrimination".
The panel found she had engaged in “unacceptable professional conduct and conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute”.
It recommended she should be banned from the profession without provision for a review period – a recommendation that was confirmed by the education secretary’s representative.
While the panel found that in all four cases the teachers were guilty of unacceptable professional conduct, it concluded mitigating factors meant that a ban was not appropriate for any of them. In the cases of Ms Bolton, Ms Marsh and Ms Yates, the panel found that they were acting under duress.
Their panel report on Ms Marsh said she had "explained in her witness statement that she had challenged Mrs Earl early on", but soon "realised there were definite consequences for anyone who spoke up against her…and things changed quite drastically for me".
The panel report on Ms Bolton revealed that she gave evidence that: “someone said to me that my relationship with Parveen Earl was like that of an abused wife". The report explained: "Ms Bolton said that she realised that this was correct in that Ms Earl built her up, then knocked her down and repeated the process in a constant cycle.”
In the case of Ms Honeyman, while she was not acting under duress, she had been “in awe” of Ms Earl, whom she regarded as an “inspirational role model”, the panel reported.
It said that Ms Honeyman had been in her second year of teaching when she started at the school, she had been promoted to assistant headteacher within three months and at the time of the Sats tests at the centre of the case, she had just been promoted to deputy headteacher, a role she would have taken up in September 2016. The panel concluded that Ms Earl had a “high degree of control” over Ms Honeyman.
Ms Yates told the TRA panel that her misconduct took place under the duress of threats from Ms Earl. The panel saw emails that Ms Yates received from Ms Earl which they described as "hyper-critical", "deplorable and strongly supportive of Ms Yates' evidence that she had been subjected to bullying and harassment".
In all four cases, the education secretary’s decision maker confirmed that the publication of findings was proportionate and a ban was not needed.