Hitchin teachers win tribunal after being sacked for ‘inflating’ SATS results

Rosa Phillips, Liz Tye and Sarah Miles were sacked from Our Lady Primary School, in Hitchin. Picture

Rosa Phillips, Liz Tye and Sarah Miles were sacked from Our Lady Primary School, in Hitchin. Picture: Google - Credit: Archant

Three Hitchin primary school teachers who were sacked because their SATS results were too 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 seven and 11 at Our Lady Catholic Primary School in Hitchin.

They said they were made ‘scapegoats’ for failings at John Henry Newman school in Stevenage, which is run by the same academy trust.

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

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

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

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

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In a written ruling, 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 temporary deputy head at Our Lady, said she had “never been complicit” in a culture of inflating the grades of children under the previous head.

In January 2018 she was suspended along with other members of staff, and in March of that year she was sacked.

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.” Mrs Phillips 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, a time when the school was described by Ofsted as outstanding and in the top 5 percent of schools nationally.”

She said that an investigation by the Teacher Regulation Authority last year found no evidence of misconduct and the case against 11 teachers was closed.

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

“I was dismissed from a job I loved doing and found very rewarding after more than 19 years of impeccable service. The investigation was started on a false premise and ploughed right on to an inevitably falser conclusion regardless of clear evidence to the contrary.”

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

When she was suspended in January 2018 she said she “had no idea what it was about,” and described the situation as “horrific.”

She said: “I was dismissed from a job I loved doing and found very rewarding. This hit me very hard. I lost my reputation as a teacher, I suffered financial hardship and my career progression has been severely disrupted. Along with that the impact of the emotional well being of myself and my family has been horrific.”

The investigation cost £161,000 which was funded by the schools in the respondent’s trust.