An East London headteacher who nudged students towards the right answers on English tests has been found guilty of serious misconduct, dishonesty and a lack of integrity by a Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) panel this month. Malcolm Drakes was employed as the executive headteacher at Broadford Primary School, in Romford, when he “excessively assisted pupils” and indicated the correct answers to tests, the panel’s report has said.
On May 14, 2018, Drakes helped pupils with their English Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar tests by indicating that pupils’ answers were correct, or that they should reconsider answers which were incorrect. He also allowed other staff members to excessively help pupils.
A whistleblowing video sent to the Standards Testing Agency (STA) by a member of staff at Broadford Primary School during the assessment, which was administered by one teacher, with Drakes and two other teachers present for parts of the exam. After seeing the video, the STA annulled the school’s results from this exam.
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And on May 15 and 17, he helped students with a Maths 3 paper, as well as allowing other teachers to help pupils with the test. That year, the STA was forced to annul the English Reading and Maths Paper 3 results recorded by the school, due to “statistical anomalies”, the report states.
The report states this conduct lacks the integrity required to be a teacher. The panel also said Drakes’ conduct was dishonest, as he was trying to unfairly improve his pupils’ result. Drakes initially admitted all of the allegations against him, but denied he had acted dishonestly.
However, at the beginning of the hearing, on August 3, 2023, Drakes accepted he had acted dishonestly. During the hearing, the panel heard evidence from several witnesses, including the investigator into the claims against Drakes. After playing the whistleblowing video sent to the STA, the witness told the panel Drakes had accepted his conduct was not appropriate, the report says.
Drakes also accepted that his behaviour amounted to unacceptable professional conduct and conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute. The report says he stated his intention was always to “assist” pupils, and not to gain any benefit for the school or himself as executive headteacher.
However, the report says the panel’s view disagreed with this, and they believe Drakes knew his behaviour was not appropriate. They thought an objective bystander would say his conduct was dishonest. This meant the panel considered his actions demonstrated a lack of integrity.
The panel found Drakes’ misconduct was of such a serious nature it fell significantly short of the standards expected of the profession. They also found his behaviour could bring the teaching profession into disrepute.
The panel then considered whether to issue Drakes with a prohibition order, which would ban him from carrying out teaching work in schools, and their name would be listed on the Prohibited List, for a minimum period of two years. They considered the importance of protecting pupils from a repeated offence, as a whole cohort of pupils were forced to have their results annulled due to Drakes’ actions.
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The panel were also aware that public confidence in teachers may be reduced if they do not treat serious misconduct like Drakes’ actions with severity. But Drakes’ mitigation in his own defence revealed a different side to the story.
The report says two of the pupils Drakes was helping had threatened to abscond from the school grounds that morning, and other teachers were threatening to ban those children from a school trip at the end of the week which was being treated as a ‘reward’ for the pupils following the SATs tests. Drakes believed the staff were antagonising those children, which went against the culture of safety for children he thought he had developed at the school.
Drakes discovered that five pupils, including the two threatening to run away, were to be doing the exams together in a room, which he said would be like “putting five sticks of dynamite together in a room”. He volunteered to be in the room with the pupils during the exam, to support them so they could complete the test and go on the school trip at the end of the week.
However, Drakes accepted the way he went about this was entirely wrong. He said he did not reflect on his behaviour afterwards, which is why he again over-assisted students a few days later.
The panel decided Drakes was acting out of a misguided attempt to help the vulnerable pupils being unfairly treated, as he saw it. However, Drakes accepted that due to his actions, he had been unfair to all the pupils whose result had to be annulled.
Drakes said he had been inspired to become a teacher after he was moved from a grammar school to a local comprehensive after making poor behaviour choices. The new school made him realise how lucky he’d been, and how many advantages he’d taken for granted.
Placements during his teaching degree led to Drakes’ desire to work in schools where he could champion disadvantaged pupils, and give those children “world class opportunities”, the report says. When Drakes first began as executive headteacher at Broadford Primary School, the school had the reputation of being the worst in the borough.
Drakes led the school from an Ofsted rating of ‘special measures’ to ‘outstanding’, and the school won several awards, including the Times Educational Supplement (TES) school of the year award. He then became executive headteacher at Mead, taking it from ‘requires improvement’ to a ‘good’ Ofsted rating.
The panel heard that even after the testing incidents in 2018, Drakes considered to have a positive impact on schools. From 2019, he has been working as a consultant at Harris Federation, supporting headteachers and helping with lockdown solutions.
The panel also found that during the period while Drakes was waiting for their final decision, he had become much more aware about what he had done wrong, and was later able to demonstrate new processes he had put in place to avoid the same incidents of cheating happening again.
In the end, the panel decided not to issue a prohibition order against Drakes, as the positive impact he had on the teaching profession outweighed the public interest risks in barring him from teaching, the report says. The main consideration the panel led on was that Drakes understood how seriously wrong he had acted, and that he was very unlikely to do it again.
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