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Former teacher at Samuel Ward Academy breaks down upon giving evidence at professional conduct panel involving Pat Stalker, Andrew Prestoe and Howard Lay




A former teacher at a school whose senior leaders are appearing in a professional conduct panel after allegedly engaging in exam malpractice and taking students off school rolls broke down in tears upon giving her evidence yesterday.

Pat Stalker, Andrew Prestoe and Howard Lay are alleged to have overseen 'unacceptable' professional conduct while working at Samuel Ward Academy, in Haverhill, from 2012 to 2016.

At the first day of a conduct panel yesterday, a senior teacher, who was giving evidence against Mrs Stalker, Mr Prestoe and Mr Lay, broke down when talking about her time immediately after leaving the school, which was part of the Samuel Ward Academy Trust.

Andy Prestoe and Howard Lay pictured at the opening of Sybil Andrews Academy at its new building, in Rougham Tower Avenue, Bury St Edmunds, in November 2016. Picture: Mecha Morton
Andy Prestoe and Howard Lay pictured at the opening of Sybil Andrews Academy at its new building, in Rougham Tower Avenue, Bury St Edmunds, in November 2016. Picture: Mecha Morton

"I left Samuel Ward Academy Trust and was working at another school and about six months after I left the school I was told I would have to join back into the Trust and I broke down in the toilets," she said.

"I said that I didn't want to work with that Trust again, but I didn't really have a choice."

It is alleged Mr Lay, among other allegations, 'submitted or allowed or caused others' to engage in 'off-rolling', the act of removing struggling pupils from the school roll before they take their final exams so results do not show in statistics, 'identified and over-assisted pupils' either by himself or by others and inflated grades for French exams.

Mr Prestoe failed to have 'adequate regard for the need to safeguard pupils' wellbeing' in connection with a former teacher, named individual C, 'submitted or allowed or caused others' to engage in off-rolling, and also 'caused, allowed and or failed' to report exam malpractice.

Mrs Stalker is alleged to have, among other incidents, 'submitted or allowed or caused others' to engage in off-rolling and 'caused, allowed and or failed' to report exam malpractice, specifically in relation to science coursework completed in the academic year 2015-16.

The senior teacher said that when she arrived at the school in 2008 she believed exam malpractice to have been in place then.

However, it was not until after a whistleblower shed light on the situation at the school in February 2018, the senior teacher came forward.

"I never reported any of this because I did not know who to trust in that leadership team,” she said of her time teaching at the school.

The senior teacher, being cross-examined by Jonathan Storey, representing Mr Lay, added she believed there to be an 'underlying current' within the leadership team during her time at the school of unethical practices.

She said she thought students' outcomes in science were good at the time but there was pressure from above for them to be better, and to mirror the success of the English department.

She will be further cross-examined later today.

Samuel Ward Academy Trust is now named the Unity Schools Partnership.

Mr Prestoe left Samuel Ward Academy to become principal of Sybil Andrews Academy in Bury St Edmunds, which opened in September 2016 on the site of the former St James Middle School and moved to a purpose-built school in Rougham Tower Avenue, a few months later .

He left suddenly in February 2018.

A spokesman for the Unity Schools Partnership said it was unable to comment on the hearing until it had concluded.

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