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Norfolk head teacher under investigation over league tables

PUBLISHED: 09:17 01 April 2009 | UPDATED: 08:39 06 July 2010

Paul Butler:

Paul Butler: "All pupils accounted for."

A Norfolk headteacher is under investigation over alleged irregularities in his school's GCSE league table results, the EDP has learned.

The inquiry focuses on the circumstances in which a number of pupils - many long-term absent - were removed from the roll at Gorleston's Oriel Specialist Mathematics and Computing College in an apparent attempt to boost its GCSE statistics.

A Norfolk headteacher is under investigation over alleged irregularities in his school's GCSE league table results, the EDP has learned.

The inquiry focuses on the circumstances in which a number of pupils - many long-term absent - were removed from the roll at Gorleston's Oriel Specialist Mathematics and Computing College in an apparent attempt to boost its GCSE statistics.

Oriel headteacher Paul Butler, who is on long-term sick leave recovering from a hit-and-run road accident near his Essex home, last night claimed an inquiry had been completed and the authorities were happy it had been resolved.

When contacted at his Essex home, Oriel head Paul Butler told the EDP: “All the pupils who were taken off the roll were accounted for.

“We have been through a procedure looking at it with the DCSF and the county and they are both happy.

“The county council are the ones to talk to. It is not for me to comment at the moment.”

The school announced its pass rate for the number of pupils achieving five A* to C grades, including English and maths, as 24pc last August, but official results four months later in January recorded it as only 21pc.

Mr Butler described the discrepancy at the time as a “technical blip”, but it has emerged that the higher figure was down to a decision to remove 12 pupils from the roll ahead of the exams.

The figure was only adjusted down to 21pc after intervention by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and officials from Norfolk County Council to belatedly restore the youngsters to the roll. The national average is around 65pc.

Removing a pupil from a roll is governed by law and is treated as a serious matter by the authorities as there is a welfare-safeguarding issue about keeping a child on the radar.

It is believed five of the youngsters subsequently completed their education at the town's pupil-referral unit but the other seven remained out of education.

Oriel's chairman of governors Trevor Wainwright said in a statement last night: “When it was first drawn to my attention by the LEA that a number of pupils had illegally been taken off roll at Oriel, my first reaction was that this course of action had been carried out by the headteacher alone without any knowledge of myself as chair of governors or the governing body as a whole.

“There are strict rules on when schools can delete pupils from their admissions register and these rules had not been carried out at Oriel.

“Although both the LEA and the DCSF have carried out investigations, which are ongoing, into the pupil removal, I will wish to have a conversation with Mr Butler regarding the illegal removals if and when he returns to school.”

He said he could only assume that the reason for the removals was to improve the school's exam performance.

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: “Removal of children from the roll can only be done in specific circumstances, and is governed by law.

“We have investigated the matter with the DCSF, and investigations into the actions taken by individuals remain ongoing. No such removal from the roll has happened at Oriel this year.”

The latest revelation has heaped further embarrassment on Oriel as consultation continues with staff over making up to 20 teaching and administrative posts redundant to redress a budget overspend which could turn out to be as high as £578,000.

The inquiry into the financial problems is being hampered by the long-term sick-leave absence of Mr Butler.

Chris Harrison, a regional spokesman for the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), highlighted the pressure on heads caused by the failure of league tables to adequately reflect the level of progress made by pupils - the tables often more reflected the area in which a school was than the quality of teaching.

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