A headteacher who was fired after she made pupils ‘cheat’ in SATs exams will not be banned from teaching, a misconduct panel has ruled.
Mrs Amanda Rush lost her job at Leesons Primary School, Orpington, in September 2017 after allegations that she instructed pupils to change their answers during and after the exams.
A member of staff accused Mrs Rush of ‘huffing and puffing’ and saying ‘no’ when she saw a pupil write down the wrong answer on a maths paper, before handing them a rubber.
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A pupil also said he was sent to Mrs Rush’s office at lunch where she made him change wrong answers on his English and Maths tests.
(Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)
Mrs Rush, who had been head at Leesons Primary School for a decade, denied these accusations but admitted she instructed pupils to ‘reposition their answers’ to the right box on the answer sheet.
At the time, Year 6 pupils at the school were left ‘in tears’ after being told their SATs results would be annulled due to an investigation into how they were carried out.
From December 6 to 13, 2021, a misconduct panel met to consider the allegations against Mrs Rush.
The panel first considered the allegation that during SATs tests in May 2017 she permitted a pupil to amend their answers.
One staff member, who was assigned to a pupil as a reader during the tests, claimed she heard Mrs Rush ‘huffing and puffing’ when the child Mrs Rush was assigned to wrote down a wrong answer.
She alleged these noises were following by Mrs Rush passing the pupil a rubber.
She also claimed that on one occasion when the test asked ‘How many millilitres in a litre’ and a pupil wrote ‘800 millilitres’, Mrs Rush said ‘No, it is a thou…’ and rubbed out the pupils answer. The witness said she then heard the pupil say ‘Oh it is a thousand’.
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The panel was presented with a copy of the question concerned, which referred to a bottle containing 568 millilitres of milk and asked how much would be left if half a litre was pulled out.
While the question did not exactly match that described by the witness, the panel noted that a pupil would need to know how many millilitres there are in a litre.
This witnesses account was supported by another member of staff in the room, though another witness who was physically closer to Mrs Rush during the incident said she did not hear her tut or sigh.
Due to conflicting and contradictory accounts from the witnesses, the panel decided it could not find the allegations proved on the balance of probabilities.
The panel then went on to consider the allegation that Mrs Rush had instructed a pupil to amend their answers after the tests had finished.
This allegation came to light when a pupil’s mum adjusted the difficulty setting on one of his games.
The pupil told his mum he was ‘fed up’ with people doing things for him and told her Mrs Rush had asked him to change his answers in her office after he finished his SATs.
The boy said: “Mrs Rush called me in to see her from eating my lunch.
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“I was hungry so I felt annoyed. In my writing paper I had put ‘my friend gave me lots of support for my work’.
“Mrs Rushed asked me what the root word was. She rubbed out my answer and asked me to write the word ‘encouragement’.
“Mrs Rush called me in to mark my Maths paper too. She had rubbed out my answers and she told me the right answers to put in. I felt annoyed about this.”
In June 2017, after being confronted with these accusations, Mrs Rush denied that she asked pupils change the contents of their answers but admitted she had asked some pupils to move their answers where they were not sitting in correctly in the answer box provided.
She explained that she had been aware that the machine used to mark and record answers would not be able to identify answers outside of this box.
The misconduct panel did not find sufficient evidence to prove that she made pupils change the contents of their answers, but said she broke guidance by making pupils move their answers.
In her statement, Mrs Rush said: “I did realise at the time that what we had done by asking the children to move their answers or make them legible was not in accordance with the guidance.
“However, I had convinced myself that we had done it for the right reasons.”
Mrs Rush also faced allegations that she opened and viewed the SATs papers before the permitted time and used the knowledge to warn pupils about the content.
The panel found insufficient evidence of these allegations.
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After finding her guilty of dishonesty for encouraging children to reposition their answers and failing to properly administrate the exams, the panel considered the appropriate sanction.
It heard that in her 30 years of teaching prior to this incident her ‘main interest was always the children’.
One colleague said: “When she took on the headship of Leesons Primary, it was in Notice to Improve.
“In three years, with the same staff, she got it to good; no mean feat.”
Mrs Rush said in the four years since she was dismissed she had been ‘consumed by sadness and regret’.”
The chair of the misconduct panel, John Knowles, decided Mrs Rush should face no further punishment on this matter, having already been dismissed from Leesons Primary School following an internal misconduct investigation in 2017.
Mr Knowles said: “The panel was satisfied that the events had a profound impact on Mrs Rush and that she had shown genuine remorse and regret for her conduct.
“The panel was satisfied that the risk of the conduct of this kind being repeated was extremely low.”
He added: “Mrs Rush did have a previously good history and the panel accepted that the incident was out of character.
“The panel was provided with numerous very positive character references confirming her significant contribution to the teaching profession over a period of more than 30 years.
“A prohibition order would prevent Mrs Rush from teaching and would clearly deprive the public of her contribution to the profession for the period that it is in force.”
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