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Monday, 03 August 2015 09:54

Phoenix Junior Academy in Medway: a lesson in how to deal with SATs cheating

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A senior member of staff at a Chatham Primary School is reported to have been suspended by the Academy Trust running the school, after alleged cheating in SATs this year was reported to the Trust. This followed an inquiry by the Chief Executive of the Trust who made a comprehensive report to the national Standards and Teaching Agency (STA), which then took the decision to annul all 90 Year 6 results. The Phoenix Junior Academy is run by the Fort Pitt Thomas Aveling Academies Trust, which has clearly behaved very responsibly and professionally in the matter. Rightly, the Trust has issued a statement explaining the situation to parents, noting that no class teacher was involved in the maladministration of the SATs and is now reportedly engaged in a confidential employment process so understandably unable to comment further.

How different from the situation at Whitehill Primary School in Gravesend….

where, after the 2014 SAT results were annulled by the STA in December 2014 following the establishment of maladministration, no comment has been made and no action appears to have been taken by the Academy Trust concerned. This is despite a Channel 4 Investigation into SATs cheating and articles in the national and local media focusing on the school and another school run at the time by the Academy Trust.

Two months after the SATs results were released in July 2014, KCC was still not prepared to acknowledge there had been maladministration in the SATs at the second school, for which it was legally responsible: “The county council is still waiting for validated Key Stage Two data which is not unusual for this time of year” so it is not surprising that progress in establishing the facts was slow. Of course, this left parents in the dark about the reasons for the annulment, although the Council has subsequently carried out several investigations into this and other matters relating to the management of the school by Whitehill staff which have identified further maladministration including the destruction of documents relating to the practice of lowering KS1 results to boost progress performance. It is believed no investigation by the Academy Trust into the parallel situation at Whitehill Primary has ever taken place and the school has never even referred to the matter publicly or told parents that Key Stage Two results from last summer are invalid. It is alleged there were similar problems reported in 2012 at Whitehill but no action was taken.

I am aware of other schools where there have been grave suspicions of cheating over SATs and the Dispatches TV programme spelled out in some detail its wider concerns but in general, there appears too little will to investigate such misconduct. This only serves to increase the cancer, as other headteachers come under increasing pressure to deliver results and some will not resist temptation if they see there are no penalties for being caught. For Academy Trusts who are responsible for their own actions, it appears the only accountability is to the Government Education Funding Agency responsible for promoting academies, which can take action if it is proven the Academy Trust is not compliant with the terms of its funding agreement. Plenty of scope there for inaction or hushing things up!

Note: A new headteacher for Fort Pitt Grammar School, part of the Fort Pitt Thomas Aveling Academies Trust, has been appointed. He is Mr Nick Watkiss, who has spent the last year seconded as Principal of Willow Brook Primary Academy in East London, from his previous post of Director of School Improvement at the Griffin Schools Academies Trust, which also runs several primary schools in  Medway. Before that he held senior posts in two London comprehensive schools.

Read 2597 times Last modified on Monday, 03 August 2015 10:37

1 comment

  • Comment Link Monday, 10 August 2015 16:48 posted by Louise Brown

    Well done to the Fort Pitt Thomas Aveling Academies Trust for acting so quickly and responsibly in this case. It appears that cheating in Year 6 SATs is becoming worryingly common, and if school leaders are allowed to get away with it (as seems to be the case at Whitehill) then I guess it will continue. If only the Gravesend Grammar Academy Trust would act as ethically and ensure that anyone responsible for the maladministartion of exams at Whitehill is held to account.

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