Harris Academy Philip Lane (formerly Downhills) cheated in SATs

Janet Downs's picture

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.

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Stephen sbm's picture
Mon, 13/08/2018 - 12:57


When I first saw this story I thought there was mention of why Ofsted/DfE had come to this conclusion (SATS papers opened early, results being much higher on the days they weren't there compared to when they were etc) but there doesn't seem to be any mention of it in any articles - is this right?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 13/08/2018 - 13:51

Stephen - Ofsted visited Philips Lane on 15 May for a short inspection.  SATs tests for 2018/19 took place as follows:

Spelling and Grammar, 2 papers 13 May

Reading, 1 paper, 14 May

Maths, 2 papers 15 May

Maths paper 3  16 May.

Inspectors were in the school when two maths papers were taken.  I can't comment on whether inspectors expressed concern abut the administration of the SATs.  There's nothing in the short inspection report published on 3 July to suggest STA was investigating.  If inspectors had raised the alarm I would have expected them to have referred judgement until after any STA investigation.  If it wasn't Ofsted, it could possibly have been a whistleblower. 

The STA investigation isn't on STA's website.  And I can't find a press release.  The papers seem to have got hold of a letter to parents. 

Stephen sbm's picture
Mon, 13/08/2018 - 14:01

Thanks for the background - I have a recollection that at one of these investigations they'd noted that while they couldn't say cheating had occurred they had concerns partly because the results from the tests when they visited were significantly different to the ones taken on the days when they weren't there (could even be a different school) but like you say no reference to it here or anywhere else I can see now so may be this wasn't the one I was thinking of (don't think I imagined it though - far too specific!)

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.