Forging exams 'damaged schools'

13th February 2004 at 00:00
Head who tampered with test papers gets life ban, reports Tara Fawcett

A Kent headteacher who was jailed for forging more than 140 examination papers has been banned from teaching for life by the General Teaching Council of England.

Alan Mercer, 47, was given a three-month prison sentence at Maidstone crown court last March after pleading guilty to changing answers on his pupils'

test papers.

Mr Mercer admitted altering and adding answers to papers over two years while he was headteacher at South Borough primary in Maidstone, Kent, in 2002, and at Eythorne Elvington primary in Dover, between 2000 and 2001.

Professor Eileen Baker, head of the GTCE's panel, said: "Mr Mercer's action represents a breach of trust at a high level and he damaged the reputation of the key stage tests and that of the schools."

Marcus Wright, of the Kent police fraud squad, told the hearing that investigations into Mr Mercer began when a key stage 2 maths marker discovered that some answers on one of the papers paper did not appear to be the work of the pupil.

Mr Wright said: "The maths papers were sent away for forensic examination and the results showed that they had been altered. It was decided that a similar investigation should be carried out on the English and science papers and the result showed that many of them had been tampered with too."

The findings meant that none of the results could be used by the school, and parents and governors therefore had no indication of how the school was doing. South Borough primary was bottom of the league table that year.

Mr Wright said that Mr Mercer initially denied tampering with the tests and implied that another member of staff was responsible.

"It was only when he called us and asked to be interviewed again a few days later that he admitted what he had done," he said.

Mr Mercer admitted that he had tampered with results at both schools, although most of the offences were committed at South Borough.

Mr Wright added that Mr Mercer believed his alterations would provide a more favourable chance for the children and would help to boost staff morale.

Presenting officer Sheleen McCormack said: "The school suffered a loss of reputation at the time and that had a knock-on effect on the teachers as pupil numbers began to dwindle.

"The Year 6 children also left the school without having any clear record of what they had done. They had to enter secondary school without a record of their achievement."

While sentencing Mr Mercer at Maidstone crown court on March 7 last year, Judge Simpson said it was plain that, however well-intentioned, Mr Mercer's actions did very much more harm than good.

"It undermined the children and it undermined the school to which you were devoted," said Judge Simpson.

Mr Mercer was not present at the GTCE hearing.

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