Halifax head banned after tampering with exams and blowing school funds on travel

Moorside Primary School, Ovenden.
Moorside Primary School, Ovenden.

A former Calderdale head teacher who tampered with exam papers, used public money for first class travel and spent money on ‘boozy’ weekends has been banned from teaching for life.

A National College of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) panel hearing, heard about the unacceptable professional conduct of Adele Simpson whilst employed as the head teacher at Moorside Community Primary School in Ovenden.

The panel heard how she opened Key Stage two test papers before exams which is against regulation as they should remain in a sealed envelope until the test begins.

It was also revealed that she would review and grade the test papers before they were sent off to the relevant examining boards.

A former deputy head teacher at the school said he explained the threshold levels to Simpson and she got a rubber out of her drawer and “started rubbing a couple of the answers… out” on the page of one of

the pupil’s test paper.

The hearing also heard that Simpson, who was appointed as head teacher of the school in 2009, used school funds to book first class tickets to a training course in London, and to pay for a stay at the Radisson Blu Hotel.

In her witness statement, the current head teacher said the school’s records reflect that first class travel had been booked and paid for on three occasions.

She said she would have expected first class travel, which was booked using public funds, to have been discussed with, and approved by, the governors but there was no evidence of this.

Witnesses said Simpson attended an early years curriculum course in London, which a former deputy head teacher believed she had already attended, with her friend who was nursery nurse.

One of the witnesses said it was in her opinion it would have been more appropriate for a member of the senior management team to attend.

The panel heard about how Simpson organised team building events and one former head teacher was not aware of exactly how the events were funded other than money was taken out of the school budget.

A former foundation stage manager of the school said she felt pressured by Simpson and her friends to attend the events but thought they were simply an excuse for a “boozy night” with Simpson.

Simpson also employed family members who were not qualified to do the jobs and two members of staff were asked to write references when they had not known Simpson’s family member for very long..

Allegations relating to doctoring test papers, spending school funds inappropriately on train tickets, hotels and team building exercises were found proved.

The panel said: “We have found that the offence of serious dishonesty, in relation to Mrs Simpson’s amending answers on children’s SATs test scripts in an attempt to improve their levels, is relevant.

“Where behaviours associated with such an offence exist, a panel is likely to conclude that an individual’s conduct would amount to unacceptable professional conduct.

“Accordingly, we are satisfied that Mrs Simpson is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.

“We have taken into account how the teaching profession is viewed by others and considered the influence that teachers may have on pupils, parents and others in the community.

“We have 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.

“The findings of misconduct are serious and the conduct displayed would likely have a negative impact on Mrs Simpson’s status as a member of the teaching profession, potentially damaging the public perception of the profession.”

In June 2014 the Standards and Testing Agency commenced an investigation into the administration of the Key Stage 2 National Curriculum Assessments (SATS) as it was alleged that Mrs Simpson and another teacher

reviewed a number of the scripts and made amendments before the papers were sent for external marking.

In August 2014, Calderdale Council received an anonymous whistleblowing complaint and a formal independent investigation was commenced in November 2014.

Investigation interviews commenced in January 2015. Mrs Simpson’s employment at the School was terminated by agreement in August 2015.

Calderdale Council’s Head of Learning, Jackie Nellis said: “We referred Adele Simpson to the National College for Teaching and Leadership after our investigations at the school highlighted serious concerns with her behaviour. We fully support the decision of the professional conduct panel.”

It was ruled that Simpson is prohibited from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England.

Furthermore, in view of the seriousness of the allegations found proved against her, she is not entitled to apply for restoration of her eligibility to teach.