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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May, 2003, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Cheating head blames test stress
A primary school head teacher who admitted cheating in the national curriculum tests has complained of the stress under which school leaders are working.

David Hopkins
My thoughts go out to all those children preparing to take their Sats tests next week
Ex-head David Hopkins

David Hopkins, formerly head of Whiteknights Primary School in Reading, Berkshire, was given a reprimand by the general Teaching Council (GTC), which will remain on his record for two years but does not stop him teaching.

He had admitted helping pupils to cheat in their science and maths Sats tests and was found guilty of professional misconduct for a "serious breach of professional trust".

Mr Hopkins claimed he was under pressure to improve the school's position in league tables and wanted to give the children a good start.

Committee chairman Judy Moorhouse said: "This is conduct which falls short of the standards expected of a registered teacher."

The charges related to Sats tests held between 13 May and 14 May last year.

Mr Hopkins was said to have allowed an unknown number of Year 6 children to change the answers they had given during their maths test.

Whiteknights Primary School, Reading
Some children at the school were given extra time

He was also accused of allowing some children extra time to complete the science test and letting them mix with others who had finished the test.

The matters came to light after a parent of a pupil at the school left a telephone message with the local education department saying her daughter had told her some pupils had been allowed to change test answers.

A principal primary school adviser did a spot check the next day and discovered irregularities with the secure storage of the tests.

The school's results in maths and science were annulled by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) following an investigation - and it plummeted to the bottom of the local league table.

Pressures

The English results for the 61 pupils were not affected and 75% of them reached the expected standard - the same as the national average. The school's combined test scores had declined over the previous three years.

Giving evidence, Mr Hopkins said had suffered from a number of exceptional factors including building works at the school, senior staff off sick and no caretaker.

He also had flashbacks from a road traffic accident he assisted in, after which he was advised by his GP to take time off.

We had had the very highest references which have been fully vindicated in terms of the comitment and professionalism he has shown
Stuart Melton, head of new school

Mr Hopkins said: "The pressures I was under and the excessive hours I was working at the time contributed to my actions.

"I never tried to hide my actions. The reason was so the children could achieve what I knew they were capable of."

In a statement after the hearing, accepting its ruling, he said: "Cases such as my own cannot fail to highlight the massive levels of stress on school leaders, brought about by unacceptable workload in general, league tables, Sats and the target-setting culture in particular.

"My thoughts go out to all those children preparing to take their Sats tests next week."

'Excellent references'

His counsel, Simon Thomas, said the Wokingham education authority in which Whiteknights was situated was a very affluent area, but the school was on the edge of a council estate and had a "mixed" intake.

Mr Hopkins resigned as head at the end of June and is currently a teacher at Waverley School in Wokingham, an independent day school for children aged three to 11.

The headmaster there, Stuart Melton, said he had taken on Mr Hopkins in the full knowledge of what he had done, because he had come with excellent references - which had been fully vindicated in terms of the commitment and professionalism he had shown.

Independent schools are not required to do Sats, though about 60% do - including Waverley.

"But not under the sort of horrendous pressures that many state school colleagues are under," Mr Melton said.

Union opposition

The whole process of "the three Ts" - targets, testing and school league tables - has been denounced at this year's annual conferences of the teachers' unions.

The biggest, the National Union of Teachers, has voted to ballot its members on boycotting the tests next year.

Mr Hopkins is a member of the National Association of Head Teachers, whose general secretary, David Hart, said it never condoned cheating, "though we understand the extreme pressures generated by the testing regime to which our members are subjected".

"These lead a very small minority to take desperate measures, such as cheating," he said.

"We are pleased that the General Teaching Council has not banned David Hopkins from teaching. He has already paid a high price as a result of the loss of his job through misconduct."

At the NAHT's conference last weekend, delegates condemned tests and tables.

Larry Malkin, head of Easington Primary School in East Yorkshire, said: "Words cannot express how much I loathe and detest the Sats system and the publication of league tables."

He said the tests amounted to "a crime against children".




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"His [David Hopkins'] decision to cheat has divided parents"



SEE ALSO:
Heads say 'sick' tests are a crime
05 May 03  |  Education
Teachers vote to boycott tests
20 Apr 03  |  Education
Tests 'damaging teacher care'
19 Apr 03  |  Education
'Too much, too young' for children
16 Apr 03  |  Education
Target fixation 'can damage learning'
27 Feb 03  |  Education
Complaints grow over school tests
21 Feb 03  |  Education
Head resigns amid cheating claims
27 Jun 02  |  Education


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