Poole headteacher banned after he altered SAT papers of those pupils "least likely to do as well as they should"

Head teacher banned for changing SAT tests at Poole school

Head teacher banned for changing SAT tests at Poole school

First published in News
Last updated

A Poole primary school head teacher has been banned from the classroom after altering pupils' exam papers.

Maurice O'Brien, 60, who had been a teacher for 38 years, was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct by a teaching regulator.

Mr O'Brien was banned indefinitely from the classroom after changing the test papers of 11-year-olds at St Mary's Roman Catholic Primary School, in Poole last year - causing their results to be annulled.

He told the investigators that a high staff turnover at the school had left him worried about pupils performance, and he changed the papers of the pupils "least likely to do as well as they should."

A professional conduct panel of the National College for Teaching and Leadership said Mr O'Brien had changed national SATs tests in literacy and numeracy in order to improve the results of "those least likely to do as well as they should".

"Those scripts raised suspicions by those examining them at the Standards and Testing Agency that they had been altered," the panel said.

"The STA notified the local authority on June 17, 2013. The local authority carried out an information-gathering exercise.

"On July 5, Mr O'Brien stated that it was he who had tampered with the papers. Mr O'Brien resigned from his post on October 6 and the matter was referred by the school to the National College for Teaching and Leadership."

The Coventry hearing heard that Mr O'Brien had admitted the facts of the allegations and also accepted that his actions constituted unacceptable professional conduct and that he may have brought the profession into disrepute.

He also acknowledged altering 30 out of 51 reading test scripts and told education officials: "It was me who tampered with the papers."

The panel noted: "The senior adviser for school improvement visited Mr O'Brien and the note of a subsequent interview with her states that Mr O'Brien had said that he was sorry, he had been weak and he apologised for his actions.

"It is stated in the interview note that Mr O'Brien was then asked to clarify what he was saying which was that he had altered SATs answer papers but that he couldn't remember how many.

"The panel also noted that in the notes of an interview carried out by an independent investigator with Mr O'Brien it is stated that Mr O'Brien readily acknowledged what he had done.

"That note describes how Mr O'Brien had access to the unsealed test papers, and that he altered some of them, focusing on those least likely to do as well as they should."

They said that in doing so, he was acting dishonestly.

"Mr O'Brien may have been motivated by a wish to prevent those pupils who may have underperformed from being personally affected if they thought they had failed," the panel said.

"Nevertheless, he would have known that he was acting in a way which ordinary people would have considered dishonest.

"The panel considered that Mr O'Brien may have acted in an impulsive way, but acted deliberately given that he stated that he 'focused on those less likely to do as well as they should'.

"The panel is satisfied that the conduct of Mr O'Brien fell significantly short of the standards expected of the profession.

"Mr O'Brien, an experienced professional and head teacher, abused the position of trust placed in him which resulted in the pupils' test results being annulled.

"The panel has taken account of the uniquely influential role that teachers can hold in pupils' lives and that pupils must be able to view teachers as role models in the way they behave.

"Mr O'Brien's actions served as a poor example to pupils who should understand that cheating is wrong."

Mr O'Brien, who did not attend the panel meeting, resigned in October last year after 17 years as head of the school.

The hearing heard that the school, which had received favourable Ofsted inspections in 2005 and 2009, had been suffering from a high turnover of staff, which led to Mr O'Brien having concerns about pupils' performance.

"Mr O'Brien explained how his personal background had impacted on his actions, which he explains motivated him to protect the pupils from the emotional consequences that may follow if those pupils didn't achieve the results they desired," the panel said.

"Although there may have been difficulties in the school, and the panel is sympathetic to the background issues described by Mr O'Brien, the panel did not consider Mr O'Brien was acting under duress.

"Mr O'Brien, as head teacher, was in a senior position and should not have allowed such matters to influence his actions."

The panel recommended that Mr O'Brien should be made subject of a prohibition order indefinitely and could apply for it to be reviewed after five years.

The recommendation was supported by a Department for Education official on behalf of Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Comments (26)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

2:24pm Thu 7 Aug 14

Imho57 says...

What a shame. Yes I know he was wrong but reading the story (If all is correct) he obviously really cared about his pupils. I feel sometimes that undue stress is put on our children with all the constant tests and exams.
What a shame. Yes I know he was wrong but reading the story (If all is correct) he obviously really cared about his pupils. I feel sometimes that undue stress is put on our children with all the constant tests and exams. Imho57
  • Score: 18

2:34pm Thu 7 Aug 14

Teddy 1 says...

Headteachers have a responsibility/oblig
ation to set an example in their conduct, living by the values they preach and how they dress etc in school. Too many places we are seeing standards drop and all too often weak governing bodies answering to the heads of school not the other way around which is why we have such bodies..it is all wrong. Education is in a very sad and sorry state in Poole
Headteachers have a responsibility/oblig ation to set an example in their conduct, living by the values they preach and how they dress etc in school. Too many places we are seeing standards drop and all too often weak governing bodies answering to the heads of school not the other way around which is why we have such bodies..it is all wrong. Education is in a very sad and sorry state in Poole Teddy 1
  • Score: 29

2:50pm Thu 7 Aug 14

Nickydoonah says...

Head teachers have a responsibility one only has to read the George comments on here or the Echo reporters spelling attempts for proof Education is in a very sad and sorry state in Poole you know it is .
Head teachers have a responsibility one only has to read the George comments on here or the Echo reporters spelling attempts for proof Education is in a very sad and sorry state in Poole you know it is . Nickydoonah
  • Score: -14

3:03pm Thu 7 Aug 14

The Liberal says...

Okay, it was wrong, but it's not like it was GCSEs or anything important. Also, for Year 2 SATs, results are partially based on teacher assessment anyhow – so this is little different.
Okay, it was wrong, but it's not like it was GCSEs or anything important. Also, for Year 2 SATs, results are partially based on teacher assessment anyhow – so this is little different. The Liberal
  • Score: -16

3:41pm Thu 7 Aug 14

muscliffman says...

A no doubt well paid Headteacher of a previously reputable local School is found out to be an exam cheat, it seems trying to protect their own interests rather than those of the kids involved - and yet people are commenting on here virtually defending him. Incredible!
A no doubt well paid Headteacher of a previously reputable local School is found out to be an exam cheat, it seems trying to protect their own interests rather than those of the kids involved - and yet people are commenting on here virtually defending him. Incredible! muscliffman
  • Score: 24

3:49pm Thu 7 Aug 14

J.b3994 says...

Nickydoonah, I think you should head BACK to school. You say that the reporter should proof read, may be you should to? Your lack of full stops and commas are really some thing we should all aspire to be like? I think not!
Nickydoonah, I think you should head BACK to school. You say that the reporter should proof read, may be you should to? Your lack of full stops and commas are really some thing we should all aspire to be like? I think not! J.b3994
  • Score: 12

4:16pm Thu 7 Aug 14

hamworthygirl says...

Trouble is the government sets too high a store by SATS these days, in the old days we were just educated and no tests until we were at junior and high school. Children as young as 6 are being assessed and if they are below the national average the schools get worried, As long as they can read and write to a decent standard there's enough time to start giving them exams when the go to junior school.
Trouble is the government sets too high a store by SATS these days, in the old days we were just educated and no tests until we were at junior and high school. Children as young as 6 are being assessed and if they are below the national average the schools get worried, As long as they can read and write to a decent standard there's enough time to start giving them exams when the go to junior school. hamworthygirl
  • Score: 4

5:25pm Thu 7 Aug 14

moleman says...

High staff turnover was an issue at the school and that is also the responsibility of the headteacher and something that should have been addressed by him and the governors.
If the staff are leaving because they are unhappy and the school has had a higher than average staff turnover rate when compared to similar schools then this should have been investigated.
I guess at 60 he will leave with a good pension and has no need to worry about this ruling.
High staff turnover was an issue at the school and that is also the responsibility of the headteacher and something that should have been addressed by him and the governors. If the staff are leaving because they are unhappy and the school has had a higher than average staff turnover rate when compared to similar schools then this should have been investigated. I guess at 60 he will leave with a good pension and has no need to worry about this ruling. moleman
  • Score: 15

5:49pm Thu 7 Aug 14

poolebandgirl says...

I feel for the Head. What he did was indefensible, but I understand why. Poorer than expected results would have provided OFSTED with another stick to beat him with. I've worked in schools for nearly 20 yrs and have a daughter still at school, and SATs truly are a blight on our children's education.
I feel for the Head. What he did was indefensible, but I understand why. Poorer than expected results would have provided OFSTED with another stick to beat him with. I've worked in schools for nearly 20 yrs and have a daughter still at school, and SATs truly are a blight on our children's education. poolebandgirl
  • Score: 10

6:33pm Thu 7 Aug 14

Teddy 1 says...

moleman wrote:
High staff turnover was an issue at the school and that is also the responsibility of the headteacher and something that should have been addressed by him and the governors.
If the staff are leaving because they are unhappy and the school has had a higher than average staff turnover rate when compared to similar schools then this should have been investigated.
I guess at 60 he will leave with a good pension and has no need to worry about this ruling.
Quite. I guess by resigning before being sacked protects their pensions like other big employers.
[quote][p][bold]moleman[/bold] wrote: High staff turnover was an issue at the school and that is also the responsibility of the headteacher and something that should have been addressed by him and the governors. If the staff are leaving because they are unhappy and the school has had a higher than average staff turnover rate when compared to similar schools then this should have been investigated. I guess at 60 he will leave with a good pension and has no need to worry about this ruling.[/p][/quote]Quite. I guess by resigning before being sacked protects their pensions like other big employers. Teddy 1
  • Score: 13

6:39pm Thu 7 Aug 14

ronrollins@hotmail.com says...

Imho57 wrote:
What a shame. Yes I know he was wrong but reading the story (If all is correct) he obviously really cared about his pupils. I feel sometimes that undue stress is put on our children with all the constant tests and exams.
Unlike real life?
[quote][p][bold]Imho57[/bold] wrote: What a shame. Yes I know he was wrong but reading the story (If all is correct) he obviously really cared about his pupils. I feel sometimes that undue stress is put on our children with all the constant tests and exams.[/p][/quote]Unlike real life? ronrollins@hotmail.com
  • Score: 4

7:28pm Thu 7 Aug 14

muscliffman says...

Teddy 1 wrote:
moleman wrote:
High staff turnover was an issue at the school and that is also the responsibility of the headteacher and something that should have been addressed by him and the governors.
If the staff are leaving because they are unhappy and the school has had a higher than average staff turnover rate when compared to similar schools then this should have been investigated.
I guess at 60 he will leave with a good pension and has no need to worry about this ruling.
Quite. I guess by resigning before being sacked protects their pensions like other big employers.
For 'big employers' please read 'public sector' employees.

Clearly in the private sector someone doing anything like this would almost certainly have been summarily dismissed for gross misconduct - and no pension.
[quote][p][bold]Teddy 1[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]moleman[/bold] wrote: High staff turnover was an issue at the school and that is also the responsibility of the headteacher and something that should have been addressed by him and the governors. If the staff are leaving because they are unhappy and the school has had a higher than average staff turnover rate when compared to similar schools then this should have been investigated. I guess at 60 he will leave with a good pension and has no need to worry about this ruling.[/p][/quote]Quite. I guess by resigning before being sacked protects their pensions like other big employers.[/p][/quote]For 'big employers' please read 'public sector' employees. Clearly in the private sector someone doing anything like this would almost certainly have been summarily dismissed for gross misconduct - and no pension. muscliffman
  • Score: 8

7:41pm Thu 7 Aug 14

High Treason says...

Is it any wonder. Many schools have to perform miracles with children these days. They have children from couldn't care less parents who have not bothered to teach their children the basics of reading, let alone write their name. many arrive half asleep due to watching TV because its easier than the parents saying no. A few are not even toilet trained, unable to tie a shoelace and many arrive scruffy. Schools can do little to correct things with many parents becoming hostile and discipline is non existent in many homes. Problems are down to schools to sort out, all part of the states not parents responsibility and yet despite all of these and many more handicaps most schools do a great job. Testing children to early creates undue, unnecessary pressure on schools and pupils alike. Despite the quality of intakes schools must perform well or they are classed as second rate. Yes he was wrong. He should have retired early knowing full well that the whole education system is in freefall due to immense population increases, for profit free schools and haven't a clue bureaucrats. Nothing he could do to fix that.
Is it any wonder. Many schools have to perform miracles with children these days. They have children from couldn't care less parents who have not bothered to teach their children the basics of reading, let alone write their name. many arrive half asleep due to watching TV because its easier than the parents saying no. A few are not even toilet trained, unable to tie a shoelace and many arrive scruffy. Schools can do little to correct things with many parents becoming hostile and discipline is non existent in many homes. Problems are down to schools to sort out, all part of the states not parents responsibility and yet despite all of these and many more handicaps most schools do a great job. Testing children to early creates undue, unnecessary pressure on schools and pupils alike. Despite the quality of intakes schools must perform well or they are classed as second rate. Yes he was wrong. He should have retired early knowing full well that the whole education system is in freefall due to immense population increases, for profit free schools and haven't a clue bureaucrats. Nothing he could do to fix that. High Treason
  • Score: 18

9:27pm Thu 7 Aug 14

Yankee1 says...

You have to wonder whether this was the only lapse in judgement. If he chose this action, knowing it to be wrong, one has to ask whether other issues under his responsibility where allowed to be compromised. One hopes not, but one cannot help but wonder.
You have to wonder whether this was the only lapse in judgement. If he chose this action, knowing it to be wrong, one has to ask whether other issues under his responsibility where allowed to be compromised. One hopes not, but one cannot help but wonder. Yankee1
  • Score: 8

9:54pm Thu 7 Aug 14

Marty Caine says...

"Mr O'Brien may have been motivated by a wish to prevent those pupils who may have underperformed from being personally affected if they thought they had failed,"

Either that or he cheated to ensure that the school where he was the head teacher still got the results to make it look like the school was doing a good job. Cheating on those exams certainly were never going to benefit the children!
"Mr O'Brien may have been motivated by a wish to prevent those pupils who may have underperformed from being personally affected if they thought they had failed," Either that or he cheated to ensure that the school where he was the head teacher still got the results to make it look like the school was doing a good job. Cheating on those exams certainly were never going to benefit the children! Marty Caine
  • Score: 9

9:55pm Thu 7 Aug 14

Nickydoonah says...

he's 60 and he's left thousands of failures behind
don't sound good does it
commas and full stops are a waste of time and ink you know
he's 60 and he's left thousands of failures behind don't sound good does it commas and full stops are a waste of time and ink you know Nickydoonah
  • Score: -11

10:16pm Thu 7 Aug 14

J.b3994 says...

Sorry, I'm still trying to catch my breath as I read your sentence.....
Sorry, I'm still trying to catch my breath as I read your sentence..... J.b3994
  • Score: 5

11:04pm Thu 7 Aug 14

leotuttle says...

so he is found guilty of unacceptable professional misconduct and banned from teaching for 5 years. He resigns therefore protecting his pension. (38 years as a Teacher, 18 being the head) which will be substantial. So in other words he is forced to take early retirement at 60. Can someone explain to me what punishment he has received for deliberately misleading parents of children of the school, who may have chosen that school based o n its exceptional Ofsted reports
so he is found guilty of unacceptable professional misconduct and banned from teaching for 5 years. He resigns therefore protecting his pension. (38 years as a Teacher, 18 being the head) which will be substantial. So in other words he is forced to take early retirement at 60. Can someone explain to me what punishment he has received for deliberately misleading parents of children of the school, who may have chosen that school based o n its exceptional Ofsted reports leotuttle
  • Score: 15

11:15pm Thu 7 Aug 14

Chief-Wiggum says...

leotuttle wrote:
so he is found guilty of unacceptable professional misconduct and banned from teaching for 5 years. He resigns therefore protecting his pension. (38 years as a Teacher, 18 being the head) which will be substantial. So in other words he is forced to take early retirement at 60. Can someone explain to me what punishment he has received for deliberately misleading parents of children of the school, who may have chosen that school based o n its exceptional Ofsted reports
Why should he be punished? He made a mistake its not the end of the world! It'll pass in time. Everyone reacts differently to stress and challenges and he reacted this way.
[quote][p][bold]leotuttle[/bold] wrote: so he is found guilty of unacceptable professional misconduct and banned from teaching for 5 years. He resigns therefore protecting his pension. (38 years as a Teacher, 18 being the head) which will be substantial. So in other words he is forced to take early retirement at 60. Can someone explain to me what punishment he has received for deliberately misleading parents of children of the school, who may have chosen that school based o n its exceptional Ofsted reports[/p][/quote]Why should he be punished? He made a mistake its not the end of the world! It'll pass in time. Everyone reacts differently to stress and challenges and he reacted this way. Chief-Wiggum
  • Score: -7

12:51am Fri 8 Aug 14

Marty Caine says...

Chief-Wiggum wrote:
leotuttle wrote:
so he is found guilty of unacceptable professional misconduct and banned from teaching for 5 years. He resigns therefore protecting his pension. (38 years as a Teacher, 18 being the head) which will be substantial. So in other words he is forced to take early retirement at 60. Can someone explain to me what punishment he has received for deliberately misleading parents of children of the school, who may have chosen that school based o n its exceptional Ofsted reports
Why should he be punished? He made a mistake its not the end of the world! It'll pass in time. Everyone reacts differently to stress and challenges and he reacted this way.
It wasn't stress at all, it was deceit, nothing more and the ones who suffered the most from that were the children themselves. The very fact that he then used those children as an excuse for his lies is nothing short of despicable.

I do find it incredible that anyone can try to defend his actions.
[quote][p][bold]Chief-Wiggum[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]leotuttle[/bold] wrote: so he is found guilty of unacceptable professional misconduct and banned from teaching for 5 years. He resigns therefore protecting his pension. (38 years as a Teacher, 18 being the head) which will be substantial. So in other words he is forced to take early retirement at 60. Can someone explain to me what punishment he has received for deliberately misleading parents of children of the school, who may have chosen that school based o n its exceptional Ofsted reports[/p][/quote]Why should he be punished? He made a mistake its not the end of the world! It'll pass in time. Everyone reacts differently to stress and challenges and he reacted this way.[/p][/quote]It wasn't stress at all, it was deceit, nothing more and the ones who suffered the most from that were the children themselves. The very fact that he then used those children as an excuse for his lies is nothing short of despicable. I do find it incredible that anyone can try to defend his actions. Marty Caine
  • Score: 4

1:22pm Fri 8 Aug 14

Mr_JTS says...

What a blessing, I never liked the guy since he banned me from playing in the cricket team in year 7!!
What a blessing, I never liked the guy since he banned me from playing in the cricket team in year 7!! Mr_JTS
  • Score: 2

1:44pm Fri 8 Aug 14

sezzler says...

J.b3994 wrote:
Nickydoonah, I think you should head BACK to school. You say that the reporter should proof read, may be you should to? Your lack of full stops and commas are really some thing we should all aspire to be like? I think not!
Too . Honestly.
[quote][p][bold]J.b3994[/bold] wrote: Nickydoonah, I think you should head BACK to school. You say that the reporter should proof read, may be you should to? Your lack of full stops and commas are really some thing we should all aspire to be like? I think not![/p][/quote]Too . Honestly. sezzler
  • Score: 0

7:17pm Fri 8 Aug 14

carrrob says...

Am i right in thinking the better the sat results the more funding the school might receive if so this should have been subject to a criminal fraud investigation as it would in any other business
Am i right in thinking the better the sat results the more funding the school might receive if so this should have been subject to a criminal fraud investigation as it would in any other business carrrob
  • Score: -1

8:22pm Fri 8 Aug 14

Nickydoonah says...

Bet he feels proud of himself when he sees the unemployable illiterate youths in the dole queue that don't put the commas in the correct place
you know
Bet he feels proud of himself when he sees the unemployable illiterate youths in the dole queue that don't put the commas in the correct place you know Nickydoonah
  • Score: -4

8:27pm Fri 8 Aug 14

Nickydoonah says...

Like me you know
Like me you know Nickydoonah
  • Score: -2

8:43pm Fri 8 Aug 14

Rotterdam says...

Interesting. I went to that school, and I remember when I was doing my 11-plus exam (must have been around 1965), the head teacher - who was a nun - stood next to me and kindly pointed out a wrong answer on my paper.

So, nothing much seems to have changed !
Interesting. I went to that school, and I remember when I was doing my 11-plus exam (must have been around 1965), the head teacher - who was a nun - stood next to me and kindly pointed out a wrong answer on my paper. So, nothing much seems to have changed ! Rotterdam
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree