Harris Academy Philip Lane (formerly Downhills) cheated in SATs
Test results for English reading and Maths quashed
Teachers at Harris Academy Philip Lane ‘over-aided’ Year 6 pupils taking SATs in the summer, the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) concluded.
Parents were told before the end of term that STA was investigating. The Chair of Governors at the academy has now contacted parents to inform them of STA’s conclusions.
Controversial takeover of predecessor school Downhills by Harris
Harris controversially took over the predecessor school, Downhills, in September 2012. There had been a long campaign to save the school which had had improved test results and pupils’ art work shown in the National Gallery. Monitoring by Ofsted in September 2011 found Downhills, previously judged inadequate, was making ‘satisfactory progress’ towards raising achievement and there was ‘a clear trend of improvement.’
This clear trend of improvement was not what the then education secretary Michael Gove wanted to hear. He ordered Ofsted to look again. The same lead inspector returned less than a term later in January 2012 and overturned her monitoring judgement. In a move that delighted Gove, she declared Downhills was still inadequate.
That’s when the campaign began. David Lammy MP and my colleague Fiona Millar spoke to over 500 parents in the school hall. They knew Downhills needed to improve but wanted that improvement to be under the stewardship of their local authority Haringey and not an academy trust.
Campaigners against Downhills’ forced academization were ‘enemies of promise’
Gove fought back. He called the campaigners ‘enemies of promise’ and ideologues ‘happy with failure’.
Parents requested a Judicial Review but this was turned down in August 2012. Downhills became Harris Academy Philip Lane in September.
Inspectors judged Philip Lane to be good two years later. This was publicised as a ‘vindication’ of Michael Gove’s decision to hand Downhills to Harris. The Daily Mail’s response was typical – Harris had ‘turned round’ a failing school.
Michael Gove hailed Philip Lane’s Ofsted judgement as a ‘stunning example’ of his academies programme. And schools minister Nick Gibb said in a speech to the Bright Blue think tank that pupils at what was the ‘chronically underperforming’ Downhills were ‘benefitting from a first class education that they would not have had’ if it had not been handed to Harris.
But Harris had built on improvements already underway at Downhills. Nowhere was this acknowledged in the desire to hype Harris Academy Philip Lane.
Cheating teachers will knock Harris’s reputation
Today we hear that SAT results at Harris Academy Philip Lane are null and void. Teachers gave too much help to pupils taking the tests.
Harris told Schools Week the trust would be undertaking its own investigation and would take ‘the toughest action’ based on its findings.
This expose of cheating will knock Harris’s reputation as the top performing trust for primary education. It raises questions about whether Harris Academy Philip Lane is a rogue Harris primary or whether teachers in other Harris primaries feel under pressure to deliver high results.