'Depressed' cheat to keep his job

7th March 2003 at 00:00
A teacher who made up test scores is reprimanded, while a second is cleared of tampering with coursework, report Richard Williams and George Wright

A teacher reprimanded by the General Teaching Council for England for falsifying optional test results has been told he can continue teaching.

John Towler, a teacher at Five Lanes primary in Leeds, admitted fabricating results for his Year 5 class while off sick, having failed to mark the papers in time to be submitted to the headteacher.

The GTC heard that when deputy head Christine Light telephoned Mr Towler in July 2001, to enquire about the test papers' whereabouts, he sent his wife with a false set of results. He was discovered when Mrs Light and headteacher Ruth Lyons searched the classroom and found the unmarked papers.

Mrs Lyons told the hearing: "We needed more information to standardise the results against the pupils' ages. I did not want to disturb him again while he was off sick so we looked in his classroom. We found the papers for May 2001 and they were not marked."

She said they also found unmarked test papers from the previous autumn, the results of which had also been submitted. "We marked the papers and found there were discrepancies with the marks he handed in," she said.

Mrs Lyons told how she confronted Mr Towler a week later when he returned to work.

She said: "He said he did not know what I was talking about. The following day he telephoned in sick and did not return until his resignation in March 2002."

Mr Towler, now working as a supply teacher in Leeds, admitted making up the results for May 2001. But he denied falsifying earlier papers, claiming his pupils sat another paper which he marked.

He told the hearing his absence was due to depression and he had "panicked" when he failed to meet the deadline. He said: "Before the results were due in I started to feel ill. It was the start of my nervous breakdown. I was as low as I possibly could be. I panicked. I made a serious professional misjudgment which I regret."

He said the school had been the root of his illness, making it impossible for him to return, but he was now back to full health.

The committee decided that Mr Towler was guilty of serious professional misconduct for falsifying the 2001 results, but dismissed the claim that he falsified the earlier paper.

Clare Easterbrook, chair of the GTC committee, said: "The committee has taken your health into consideration, however we consider it did not justify your actions but it is a relevant mitigating factor."

She said a reprimand would be placed on his record for two years but he could still teach.

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