Hertfordshire teachers win tribunal after being sacked for unexpectedly high SATS results

Three primary school teachers who were sacked because their SATS results were unexpectedly good have won their case at an employment tribunal.

Rosa Phillips, Liz Tye and Sarah Miles denied they inflated the assessments for the children, aged between 7 and 11, at Our Lady Catholic Primary School in Hitchin, Herts.

They said they were scapegoats for failings at John Henry Newman, the Catholic senior school in Stevenage.

An employment tribunal in Cambridge heard that Clive Mathew the headteacher at John Henry Newman raised concerns about the assessment results coming from Our Lady, compared with its seven other feeder schools.

The secondary head reported that the 2017 GCSE results taken by students who had come from Our Lady were not in line with their assessments.

The sacked teachers said they had supported four vulnerable pupils from the 26 students to get them through - something that may not have continued at the senior school.

Rosa Phillips, 47, and Liz Tye, 41, claimed unfair dismissal from the Diocese of Westminster Academy Trust, which runs 11 schools in Herts and London.

Another teacher Sarah Miles, 37, from the school claimed constructive dismissal at the hearing in Cambridge. She was sacked from the school in March 2018, but reinstated on appeal.

In a written ruling Employment Judge Alan Johnson said their cases were “well-founded” and succeeded. A remedy hearing is to be fixed at a later date.

Giving evidence, Rosa Phillips, who had been head of Key Stage Two and a temporary deputy head, said she had never been complicit in a culture of inflating the grades of children under the previous head.

Mrs Phillips, from Lower Stondon said she had been a member of the Senior Leadership Team at the primary school since 2008. In January 2018, she was suspended, along with other members of staff, and in March of that year she was sacked.

She told the tribunal: “They (John Henry Newman School) were praising the children from our school. Over the years he (the head) was not raising any concerns."

Mrs Philipps said the Standards and Testing Agency carried out an investigation in SATS results at the school, which was rated outstanding in 2009 by Ofsted. She said they found nothing wrong.

Questioned by Mark Williams, for the Diocese, she agreed an inaccurate assessment could harm a child saying: “You need someone to pick it up and correct it.”

But she said: “At no time have I inflated the pupils’ levels. I have been meticulous and thorough in marking.

“I have never been complicit in a culture of inflating pupils’ levels."

Asked why they had achieved 100 per cent on SATs for three years in a row, she replied: “If you get 32 out of 40 in a test you have passed.” She put the results down to the hard work of staff and the support the children received from staff.

In her evidence. she said: “I was a member of staff for almost 20 years at a time when the school was described by Ofsted as outstanding and in the top 5 percent of schools nationally.

“Prior to my dismissal, I had an exemplary record - both in terms of my performance and conduct. “

In January 2018, the Chair of Governors Neil Adams, told her she was suspended. Parents were told there had been “widespread and significant manipulation of Key Stage results for years.”

But she said: “My lesson observations, pupils’ exercise books and planning records have been judged outstanding internally and externally by many professionals throughout my time at the school. The teacher assessment was always found to be accurate and validated.

She said two Ofsted inspections and external moderation by Herts County Council found nothing wrong.

An investigation by the Teacher Regulation Authority last year found no evidence of misconduct and the case against 11 teachers was closed, she said.

“This is an extremely serious allegation and could have ended my career as a teacher.

She said Amanda Adams, a teaching assistant and wife of the Chair of Governors, was the only member of staff suggesting something underhand had taken place.

Mrs Phillips went on: “The whole process had a major impact on my health. My symptoms were feelings of unhappiness, hopelessness, losing interest in things I enjoyed, feeling tearful, sleeping badly and a lack of appetite."

Liz Tye, from Hitchin, became a senior teacher in 2008 and the Special Education Needs Co-ordinator in 2016.

She said prior her to her dismissal she had an exemplary record.

When she was suspended in January 2018 she said: “I had no idea what it was about.“ She described what happened as “horrific.”