Exams bungle deputy given three-year ban

6th November 2009 at 00:00
Teacher barred for not acting over tainted papers, then blaming a colleague

A deputy head has been banned from teaching for three years after she tried to cover up an administrative bungle over tainted examination papers.

The General Teaching Council for England (GTC) said Maureen Sullivan, exams officer at her school, was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct involving dishonesty, made worse by her "persistent lack of insight into the seriousness of her conduct".

Ms Sullivan was caught up in a web of deceit in January 2007 after her headteacher passed her a letter from exam board AQA saying that a bundle of external maths papers were tainted and a set of replacement papers would be sent soon.

But she failed to act on the letter or pass it to the exams admin officer. The pupils, at Cowes High School in the Isle of Wight, started the exam with the wrong papers.

When an investigation was launched, Ms Sullivan lied to the head, claiming she had passed the AQA letter to the exams administrator, and added a false entry into the school's postal database to "prove" it.

David Snashall, the school's head, was suspicious about the entry, and the IT department confirmed it had been added retrospectively.

The GTC said: "Ms Sullivan was in a position of authority which she abused in attempting to shift blame to another member of staff."

No harm was done by Ms Sullivan's lack of action over the tainted papers as the head noticed the replacements sitting on his desk 20 minutes into the exam. Advisers at AQA told the school to make pupils start again with the new papers.

The dishonesty case, with its stringent three-year prohibition order, echoes other dishonesty cases in which the GTC has come down hard on teachers.

Sarah Boylan was barred from the classroom in 2004 for four years after she falsely stated in a job application that she had two masters degrees and had been employed at two schools in London. As a result, she was appointed RE teacher at Brentwood Ursuline Convent High School in Essex, where she worked for one term.

In July this year, she became only the second person in the history of the GTC to be allowed to re-register.

These tough sanctions compare interestingly with those for teachers who have committed crimes.

In October, a Freedom of Information Act request by the Liberal Democrats revealed that 14 teachers convicted for assault, drink-driving, drug possession, harassment and obtaining goods by deception went unpunished by the GTC.

Ms Sullivan has 28 days to appeal against the GTC's decision.


October 2009

Denise McKillop, a humanities teacher, was banned from the classroom for two years for incompetence.

Supply teacher Harsha Yoganathan was suspended for a year after he admitted indecent exposure.

February 2009

Stephen Carr, from a Newcastle school, was struck off for life after having an "inappropriate relationship" with a pupil.

Frank Aboagye, from Sir Frank Markham School, Milton Keynes, was struck off for life for lying.

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