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Three former senior Samuel Ward Academy, Haverhill, teachers avoid teaching bans or sanctions after misconduct hearing

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Three former senior leaders at Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill who had been found guilty of unprofessional conduct by a standards panel have been cleared to carry on teaching.

The school’s former executive head, Howard Lay, ex-principal Andy Prestoe and ex-assistant head Pat Stalker had all been found guilty earlier this month after a two-week hearing before the Teaching Regulation Agency’s (TRA) misconduct panel.

The panel found Mr Lay failed to act after learning that off-rolling (the practice of removing low-achieving students from the school register) was taking place at Samuel Ward, but that he had not been its ‘architect’.

Andy Prestoe, left, and Howard Lay pictured in 2016
Andy Prestoe, left, and Howard Lay pictured in 2016

It also found that Mr Prestoe and Ms Stalker were actively involved in off-rolling and had ‘breached ethical standards’ through failures linked to coursework ‘malpractice’.

Mr Lay was cleared of three charges relating to coursework malpractice.

The off-rolling and course malpractice took place at the school between 2012 and 2016.

Mr Lay has told Suffolk News that the TRA panel has not imposed any prohibitions or sanctions on either him, Mr Prestoe or Ms Stalker.

“I am pleased that the Secretary of State accepted the recommendation of the panel and concluded that much of the case lacked credibility,” said Mr Lay.

“I accept that I should have been more meticulous in my oversight of Samuel Ward in 2015/16 when I was building the Trust.

“I am glad that Andy Prestoe and Pat Stalker can now put this behind them and continue in their careers.

“Both were outstanding teachers and did not deserve some of the malicious allegations that were made against them. I wish them well.”

A spokesman for Unity Schools Partnership, of which Samuel Ward is a part, said: “We became aware of allegations in late 2017 and early 2018.

"We commissioned external investigations into these allegations and passed the outcomes of these investigations to the TRA in 2018.

“We checked very carefully the practice then at Samuel Ward Academy and were confident that there had been no malpractice since 2016.

“Unity Schools Partnership, and all our member schools, take any allegation of professional misconduct with the utmost seriousness.

“We are confident that the new leadership at the school, and across the trust, have had unwavering commitment to adhering to all Government guidance.”

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