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Headteacher leaves primary school after tests investigation

Headteacher leaves primary school after tests investigation

The headteacher and two other staff members have left a London primary school after an internal investigation found that Sats papers had been systematically altered and missing answers added. A letter to parents with children at the Harris primary academy Philip Lane in Tottenham, north London, said the headteacher, Emma Penzer, the deputy head and…

The headteacher and two other staff members have left a London primary school after an internal investigation found that Sats papers had been systematically altered and missing answers added.

A letter to parents with children at the Harris primary academy Philip Lane in Tottenham, north London, said the headteacher, Emma Penzer, the deputy head and another teacher would not be returning to the school, after the year 6 national test results were cancelled.

An initial investigation by the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) in August found pupils had been given too much help while sitting their English and maths standardised tests in May this year.

But the internal investigation by the Harris Federation, the multi-academy trust that took over the school in 2012 despite protests by parents, found examples of direct tampering with test papers.

Susan Head, the school’s chair of governors, told parents that the findings were a “shocking blow to the whole school community”, and were upsetting for both parents and staff.

“Among other findings over the course of the investigation, analysis of the papers showed that incorrect answers had been systematically crossed out and replaced with correct ones,” Head said in the letter to parents.

“In the mathematics papers, the correct answers were given in places without any workings-out where they should have been present. For clarity, I would like to emphasise that the pupils themselves were not involved in any wrongdoing.”

While the departure of Penzer and the other staff members was upsetting, Head told parents, “the findings of the investigation are so serious that we were left with no choice – any school presented with this evidence would need to take the same action”.

The school has been in the national spotlight since 2012, when Michael Gove, the then education secretary, intervened to force the primary, then known as Downhills, into academy status and join the Harris chain, despite strong opposition from parents and the local authority.

Since then, the school has regularly been praised for its achievements, including 2017 Sats results that appeared to show it performing well above the national average in writing and maths.

In the school’s year 6 test results in 2016, 51% of pupils reached the government’s expected standards in reading, writing and maths, below the national average of all state school pupils in the local authority and England. By 2017, that figure had soared to 78%, well above the national average.

The Harris Federation said in a statement: “We cannot comment on the employment contracts of individual staff members, but as per the letter the staff will not be returning to work at the academy.”

Emma Penzer and the other members of staff who have left could not be reached for comment.

The action comes after Department for Education figures showed a continued rise in maladministration of key stage 2 national tests in England, with the STA investigating 466 cases involving schools last year compared with 430 in 2016.

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