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Called marking your own homework, innit?

A cheating headteacher covered up 28,000 pupil absences in a five-year “web of deceit”, a tribunal has heard.

Peter Spencer, 52, ordered staff to log pupils at Queen Elizabeth High School in Carmarthen, South Wales, as present when they were missing from classes.

The distortion of data came after an inspection called for improved attendance at the 1,500-pupil school. More than 28,000 absences were altered between 2014 and 2019 before a whistleblower raised the alarm, an Education Workforce Council tribunal heard.

17 thoughts on “Called marking your own homework, innit?”

  1. If going to school worked, shouldn’t this have been noticed in the results? More kids in class=better GCSEs, right?

    The headteacher is the smartest guy here. There’s kids who hate school, don’t want to go. With some, you can bring their parents in and straighten that out, so they turn up, sit bored and count the days until they can leave. But with the ones whose parents don’t care, you’re going to spend all your time for nothing. Might as well just change the scores.

  2. Counting on my fingers, that equates to roughly an entire class missing for five years solid.

    If this was an inner city Comp, then I’d reckon that was about right. Kids just “disappear” . In my S London comp in the late 70s/ early 80s we had one lad in our class who turned up for some of the first year and then stopped but stayed on our register through to the fifth.

  3. I certainly managed in the 60’s. Last 6 months of schooling I was actually working in a City office doing a responsible & well paid job. Nobody ever noticed. I just used to show my face the odd morning. Bloody pain having to go back & sit O-levels & mix with all those children. Think I may even have passed some.

  4. “Peter Spencer, 52, ordered staff to log pupils at Queen Elizabeth High School in Carmarthen, South Wales, as present when they were missing from classes”

    I wonder how that “order” was issued. Having worked in Further Education, that’s one email I would have saved and put into my special folder.

    And Ofsted are right to publicise that whistleblower function. There was, I recall, an email address that they tell you about when the inspection starts, and there is an open invitation for staff to approach inspectors confidentially.

  5. A long-remembered school report contained the comment: “Worked well in the lesson he came to.”

  6. BIS,

    “Last 6 months of schooling I was actually working in a City office doing a responsible & well paid job. Nobody ever noticed. I just used to show my face the odd morning. Bloody pain having to go back & sit O-levels & mix with all those children. Think I may even have passed some.”

    I seriously believe that most kids should leave school at 13 or 14. There’s the academics who love it, and so great, let them keep going to school. Everyone else gets very little out of it. And they’re also becoming more independent, doing things they want to do rather than stuff around mum and dad.

    The only purpose served is as a babysitting service for those kids, and even then, that’s only because they can’t do something productive, so it’s school or going to the park and smoking. You could send kids into recording studios, games companies, whatever they like and they would be productive and learn things, and be ready for the world at 16 or 17. They wouldn’t be trouble, in the same way that the disruptive kids at my school were not disruptive in metalwork, because they liked it.

  7. BoM4,

    It’s bad enough when the work experience kids turn up for a few weeks every summer; I shudder to think what the workplace would be like with teenagers present year-round. Not to mention safeguarding issues of Pervy Dave working alongside Imogen, 14.

    Also, what you’re proposing sounds a lot like apprenticeships; and they’re as rare as hen’s teeth. It costs money to train people; teenagers are no exception. You could redirect money from schools to companies for apprenticeships, but then you have no quality control (hence all those fake-apprenticeships like hairdressing).

    Vocational schooling seems like the best of both worlds. I don’t know why we ever abandoned it.

  8. “The headteacher is the smartest guy here.” Unlikely. At my school the cleverest fellow was probably the Head of Maths though the Heads of History and English were also pretty sharp.

    Anyway this headmaster must be a dud; a clever bugger would have ensured that all the blame attached to the Deputy Head.

  9. So Ofsted uses a metric (truancy) that is but tenuously in the control of the school. Advantage is it’s easy enough to measure. Sitting though entire lessons and making a (subjective) judgement on teaching quality would be much harder to do.

    Bloody bone idle ex-teachers, why do we pay ’em?

  10. I’m with BoM4 (though I take Dearieme’s point).
    My wife went to a pretty shit comp where they invented a kid in the English class called Jimmy Toad, and the teacher would religiously call the name out and mark him as present (or, occasionally, missing [‘He’s had to go to hospital, miss’]) on the register (not noticing or perhaps not caring that the voice of Toad came from different kids each day, nor that he never turned in any work).
    Or possibly the teacher knew, and found it funny.
    I digress. I went to a very expensive school with 100% attendance on account of the fact that we lived there, and I think even in that scenario the education for those interested in it would have been improved if those boys who didn’t want to learn eg physics had been allowed to not bother. In a Welsh comp I think it would be 100x better to not notice the kids who weren’t turning up.

  11. I.m guessing that the initiative came from the local authority who hadn’t managed to fine any parents for not ensuring attendance! Nothing to pay the ‘inspectors’ with

  12. Let’s do the maths. 28,000/5 = 5600 absences per year, 5600/1500 = 3.733 absences per student per year.

    Roughly 4 covered up absences per pupil per year? Surely that is not so high that they are worth covering up?

  13. I seriously believe that most kids should leave school at 13 or 14.
    There’s nothing special about school. What’s important is learning & schools aren’t necessarily the best place to do that. I reckon I learnt more in that 6 months than I did in the previous 6 years. When I sat down to those exams I was the only adult in the room. And I’d exclude the teacher as well. I’d just spent 6 months learning a bit beyond the limits of my abilities. After that, learning something might have taken a year I’d crack in a few days part time. How people manage to sped 3 years at uni I haven’t a clue. What the hell do they do there? How do you know in your late teens what you’ll be good at doing in your mid 20’s without any experience to make a choice on?

  14. Did his classroom look like that scene in Real Genius, with a bunch of tape recorders on empty desks?

    He could’ve gone the Ferris Bueller route and told the inspectors his students hacked into the school’s attendance system.

  15. “Also, what you’re proposing sounds a lot like apprenticeships; and they’re as rare as hen’s teeth. It costs money to train people; teenagers are no exception. You could redirect money from schools to companies for apprenticeships, but then you have no quality control (hence all those fake-apprenticeships like hairdressing).”

    Try getting young people to do an apprenticeship. Friend of mine runs a restaurant, she was offering a full time apprenticeship, formal training in all aspects of running a restaurant, from front of house, waiting on tables, cooking etc etc, day release to local college, qualification at the end of it and the living wage to boot. The only enquiries she got were from people who wanted 16 hours work a week so they could qualify for their benefits. Oh and from a middle aged Thai lady (because you’re not allowed to specify young people in your ad), who she actually took on, and who then proceeded to mess everyone around with not being able to work and then could, and then couldn’t and in the end just disappeared.

    Basically Gordon Brown and his Tax Credits have created an entire class of people who don’t have to work full time in order to get an income, they all just want the simplest part time job possible and let the taxpayer make up the difference.

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