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Academy cheating cover up?

NEU activists sound alarm on institutions fluffing results and hiding major failures

AN academy chain “covered up” wholesale cheating by a school which paid professionals to “point at the answers” during SATs exams, a teacher claimed today.

The sensational allegation emerged as the National Education Union raised the alarm over the “falsification of data” being used to inflate grades.

Bob Groome, an NEU rep in Norfolk, told delegates: “We’ve had ... instances where schools hired in extra support for pupils during Sats examinations, in order to enhance the pass rate.

“In other words they’re sitting next to the child and they’re pointing at the answers. In one particular case, someone whistle-blew, and the trust was able to cover up the issue by removing the head.”

Mr Groome went on to say that “through influence with the regional schools commissioner” (RSC) for the area, Tim Coulson, the academy trust was “able to brush everything under the carpet.”

RSCs are a new class of Department for Education (DfE) civil servants with huge powers over approving and intervening in academy schools.

Mr Coulson served as the first commissioner for the east of England and north-east London. He resigned last year to become chief executive of the West Suffolk-based Samuel Ward Academy Trust.

When contacted by the Star, he said: “Any enquiries about my time as RSC need to go to the DfE press office. I hope they will say this is libellous.”

But a DfE spokeswoman said: “This is a matter for Tim Coulson and his office to respond to.

“Any instances of cheating in exams are completely unacceptable. Any allegations of malpractice should be reported to the Standards and Testing Agency and these will be investigated.”

Mr Groome told the Star that there were cases of teachers being struck off “again and again” over assisting pupils with exams and coursework.

“What I’m asking the union to do is to research to find out if this is rife across the country, or just specific to Norfolk,” he said.

The union rep said he was regularly called in to represent teachers facing disciplinary action from their schools because kids had not made “sufficient progress” academically.

“I look at the predicted grades on the evidence sheet and I’m quite often quite astounded how the grades have been inflated in comparison to the original data,” he said.

“Quite often this is done by heads of department under pressure from senior leadership, or in some cases from colleagues who are passing on the class to another member in order to protect their own problems.”

Birmingham delegate Rod Bissett said he knew of one case of a pupil who “had made no progress since September ... except in the lessons taught by the head of teaching and learning at the school”.

Closer inspection of that teacher’s data showed “almost equal amounts of progress for all his pupils,” Mr Bissett said.

“The benefits of fraudulent data are tempting, but that’s not why we’re in the profession.”

Another Norfolk-based teacher, Tim Jefferson, warned: “Students are being exploited, parents are being misinformed, teachers are being left in the dark.”

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