Exams

Special school teacher banned over Covid grade ‘dishonesty’

Case appears to be the first sanctions issued for misconduct relating to teacher grades used during the pandemic

Case appears to be the first sanctions issued for misconduct relating to teacher grades used during the pandemic

A special school teacher has been banned from the profession after submitting her own work instead of a pupil’s for teacher assessed grades (TAGs) during the pandemic. 

In what appears to be the first misconduct sanctions issues relating to Covid grades, the Teaching Regulation Agency found Gillian Hardman submitted an “exemplar” piece of work instead of a pupil’s in June 2021.

GCSEs and A-levels were cancelled in 2021 due to Covid lockdowns. Instead, teachers decided grades and schools submitted these to exam boards.

The impacted teenager had to resit the exam months later, the school said.

Hardman, a teacher at Inscape House School, which supports autistic children in Stockport, admitted she had submitted the wrong Geography GCSE work but said it was an “error” when copying and pasting documents. 

In addition, she also told the non-maintained special school the pupil had completed a past paper in exam conditions, when the pupil was actually working remotely at home. 

Hardman, who had 20 years teaching experience, said she had made a mistake on the TAG form due to “panic”. 

She also told the school the pupil’s work had been moderated before the June deadline when it had not been. 

Hardman said she had prioritised England and Maths qualifications and Geography had gone “on the backburner” which she acknowledged was “wrong”. 

But in a decision document published last week, the TRA panel found Hardman had acted dishonestly and without integrity. 

The panel concluded she knew two of the three pieces of work submitted had not been completed by the pupil. Some of the submitted work had “been produced by herself”. 

‘Out of character’

They added that although the incidents were “out of character”, Hardman’s actions “fell significantly short of the standard of behaviour expected of a teacher”.  

She had showed remorse but “maintained that her conduct was not dishonest but was the result of mistakes she had made”. 

The panel also considered how the incidents occurred “during unprecedent circumstances” caused by the pandemic “and at a time of increased stress and uncertainty” for Hardman and the teaching profession.

Hardman was prohibited from teaching indefinitely. She can apply for this to be removed in two years’ time. 

An Inscape House spokesperson said this was an “isolated incident” and the TAG was not submitted to the exam board. 

“Although hugely disappointing for the young person and their family, we did everything we could to support them. We supported the student to retake the exam a few months later and were delighted that they achieved a grade 9. The young person remains a successful student at our school and is currently working towards A levels.”

We looked at TRA rulings published since June 2022 until this week. This case was the only to specifically mention the teacher grade process undertaken during the pandemic.

Ofqual statistics show how penalties for staff malpractice sharply dropped during covid from 450 in 2019 to 35 in 2020 and 50 in 2021.

Dr Jo Saxton, Ofqual’s chief regulator, revealed last year how private schools were being investigated for malpractice after “credible evidence” some over-inflated teacher grades issued when exams were cancelled.

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