Primary head 'guilty of serious dishonesty' escapes ban

Primary school leader who acted 'out of character' and reported false KS1 data can stay in the profession

Claudia Civinini

A headteacher has avoided being banned from the profession after she admitted submitting false key stage 1 data

A primary headteacher who submitted "inaccurate and/or false" key stage 1 writing data to the local authority has escaped a ban from the profession.

Colleen Owen, headteacher of St Peter’s Catholic Primary School in Kent, last year submitted results showing that 83 per cent of children at the school had achieved the expected standard in KS1 writing – when, in reality, the proportion was more than a third lower, at 53 per cent.

She admitted to having made inaccurate submissions in a statement examined by the Teaching Regulation Agency panel.

The panel found that Ms Owen "took responsibility for the decision to submit inaccurate data and accepted that her conduct demonstrated a lack of integrity and was dishonest".

Headteacher made inaccurate submissions

Ms Owen was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct in breach of the Teachers' Standards.

The panel also noted that her conduct "may bring the profession into disrepute".

However, while no evidence was found that Ms Owen acted under duress, the panel noted that there was "compelling evidence" that she had been going through emotional stress and her conduct was "completely out of character".   

The panel decided to advise to not issue a prohibition order

It said: "It would not be in the public interest to lose Ms Owen from the teaching profession."

The investigation against Ms Owen started when an anonymous whistleblower complained to the Kent Catholic Schools' Partnership, which St Peter's Catholic Primary School is part of.

The complaint raised concerns about the reporting of the KS1 literacy data: it was reported that at least nine children who should have met the standards were not demonstrating this.

The Kent Catholic Schools' Partnership then investigated the allegations and held a meeting in September last year.

At that meeting, Ms Owen confirmed that inaccurate data had been submitted to the local authority in June.

She resigned a week after the meeting.

Examining the documents, the panel concluded that Ms Owen had acted deliberately to make changes to the data "which were not supported by the pupils' assessed performance."

It considered that since Ms Owen was guilty of "serious dishonesty" while in a position of authority, her actions could affect public confidence in the teaching profession.  

However, the panel found that Ms Owen had been suffering emotional stress and ill health due to a "number of significant personal issues" that she had been dealing with in the time leading up to her misconduct.

It also considered character references defining her a "kind, caring and capable professional", and "hard worker" whose intentions "were never malicious". A reference maintained that this incident was "an error of judgement made under duress during an extremely difficult period in Colleen’s life”. 

Considering the evidence and the fact that Ms Owen accepted full responsibility for her actions and communicated her remorse, the panel considered that her actions were out of character, and concluded that it would not be in the public interest to exclude her from the profession.

The panel's recommendations were upheld by decision-maker Sarah Buxcey on behalf of the secretary of state.

 

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Claudia Civinini

Claudia Civinini

Find me on Twitter @claudiacivinini

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