End this name-and-shame culture

17th August 2007 at 01:00
In recent years, one distressing and distasteful aspect of teaching has been the pillorying of those who have amended exam scripts or marks, given unacceptable levels of help with coursework or in other ways breached the rules. They are named and their photographs published in the national press. They are instructed to appear before their peers at the General Teaching Council. They have suffered professional bans, even prison sentences. I am sure local papers have picked up on these stories and I imagine these people and their families have suffered great pain and humiliation.

I have often wondered what their motives are. It is hard to imagine any financial gain. I suspect it is more likely that they have responded unwisely to the pressure of the name-and-shame culture that we all endure. Indeed, your editorial (TES, August 10) hinted at the pressures that may arise from the planned release of even more detailed comparative data. Stress-related illness may well have led them to their inappropriate behaviour. Desperation and lack of judgment deserve a more considered response.

What were the motives of the consultant who "tipped off a teacher about an exam question to help pupils cheat in a national test" (TES, August 10)? Certainly, they would appear to be far more dubious than those of a teacher pressured into producing results. And yet the consultant remains anonymous. Hisher picture is not published, and "suspension" implies a quick return to work. You included without questioning the CfBT education trust's statement that there was "no breach of security" and accepted its quotes that it had carried out its own disciplinary hearing and that "it is not appropriate to comment on confidential employment issues relating to individual members of staff".

If it is not appropriate for consultants, the same principle should apply to teachers. Cheating is wrong and there should be consequences. This procedure should be carried out by governors and local authorities privately, humanely and without the current vilification that must cause such pain and harm to those involved.

Stewart Gimber

Headteacher, Ullswater community college, Penrith, Cumbria

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