This article titled “Staff at ‘outstanding’ London school suspended over alleged exam cheating” was written by Richard Adams Education editor, for theguardian.com on Friday 10th February 2017 18.31 UTC
The headteacher and several senior staff at an east London school praised for its outstanding GCSE results have been suspended, after a whistleblower alerted authorities to alleged exam cheating involving senior teachers.
The investigation into results at Green Spring academy Shoreditch – which changed its name from the Bethnal Green academy after three pupils left to join Islamic State in Syria – has been going since last year, after the whistleblower reported disturbing allegations of malpractice.
The school’s governing trust confirmed on Friday that the principal, Mark Keary, has been suspended as part of the investigation, alongside a number of members of the school’s senior leadership team, who have not been named by the school.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Following an investigation at Green Spring academy in Tower Hamlets, exam malpractice has been identified resulting in disciplinary action being taken.
“The regional schools commissioner is working closely with the academy trust to ensure students face as little disruption as possible during this time, and we continue to monitor the situation closely.”
A number of pupils who sat exams last summer have been interviewed as part of the investigation, with many now fearing their exam grades may be voided.
In a statement the school’s governing trust, the Green Spring Education Trust, said: “An investigation into alleged misconduct in relation to some examinations has found irregularities.
“The trustees are taking the matter very seriously and are working with the authorities to address concerns and safeguard students taking exams at the academy this year.
“The trust has taken the decision to suspend a number of staff and, in light of this, additional leadership support is being brought in.”
In recent years the school has received accolades for its strong performances in GCSE league tables. In February last year, the schools minister Nick Gibb wrote a letter to Keary congratulating the school on its results in 2015, lauding “the fantastic progress made by your pupils”.
In last year’s GCSEs, 82% of pupils achieve five good GCSE passes, including in English and maths, while its performance on the Progress 8 benchmark was one of the highest in the country.
Parents say several of the school’s deputy heads have been suspended alongside Keary, who was principal as well as chief executive of the multi-academy trust overseeing two schools. As chief executive, Keary was paid more than £200,000, making him one of the best-paid school leaders in England.
Investigators have been looking at allegations that pupils were taken out of exams and given access to answers, while other lines of inquiry include the use of exclusions to remove less able pupils, and altering coursework submitted by pupils.
“There is no place for cheating in our schools and while exam malpractice is extremely rare, it is right that any allegations are thoroughly investigated,” the DfE said.
The school hit the headlines three years ago when three pupils aged between 15 and 16 travelled to Syria via Turkey during the February half-term holiday. One of the girls is thought to have died during the bombing of Isis forces in Raqqa last year.
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