Two-year ban for test cheat

24th September 2004 at 01:00
Teacher barred from classroom for two years for altering pupils' English papers. Tara Fawcett reports

A primary teacher who altered three test papers to make them look better has been banned from teaching for two years by England's General Teaching Council.

Helen Longstaff, formerly of Kneesall Church of England primary in Newark, Nottinghamshire, was found guilty of professional misconduct while invigilating a key stage 2 English test in May 2003.

Mrs Longstaff, who was not present at the hearing, resigned in August 2003.

She had taught at the school for almost five years.

Sheleen McCormack, presenting officer, said external markers noticed that a number of answers on some of the papers had been written in handwriting other than the child's own.

"Following external marking, the school was informed in June 2003 that certain papers needed investigation," she said. "It appeared that certain words on three papers seemed to be changed by someone else."

The pupils whose papers were affected denied they had been given help.

"However, forensic testing of the papers showed changes had been made, so the children were re-interviewed in July 2003," Mrs McCormack said.

"Two pupils stated they had been helped by Mrs Longstaff and a third pupil was evasive, but later told his parents he had been helped, and they told the school," she said.

The incident led to all the test results in English being declared null and void.

Susan Ilett-Coupe, Kneesall's headteacher, said that Mrs Longstaff invigilated the KS2 test by herself before giving the papers to another administrator to be sent away to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

Mrs Ilett-Coupe said she was alerted to the discrepancies by the examination board in early July and was shocked to see that certain words had clearly been written by someone else.

All of the pupils finally admitted it was not all their work.

Mrs Ilett-Coupe said: "This incident had a devastating effect. Mrs Longstaff was placed in a position of trust. By her actions she damaged the results of the entire year and the school."

Nigel Turner, representing Mrs Longstaff, denied his client had made any changes to exam papers and said she was being made a scapegoat by the school.

Mr Turner said: "Mrs Longstaff has no reason to alter any of it. There is no suggestion that the additional handwriting is Mrs Longstaff's.

"Along with the inconclusive evidence, Mrs Longstaff was not requested to submit a sample of handwriting. She was simply made a scapegoat.

"There are no observations of Mrs Longstaff cheating during the tests despite the close proximity to pupils and other classrooms."

Mr Turner said Mrs Longstaff resigned from her post because she felt that other staff thought her guilty and she had received no support.

Sarah Bowie, the panel chairman, said: "Mrs Longstaff's actions let down pupils, their parents and professional colleagues at the school.

"Moreover, it has damaged the confidence the public have the right to have in teachers, their actions in examinations and the system as a whole."

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