A headteacher has resigned after admitting trying to push her school up the league tables by correcting her pupils' answers to national standard assessment tests.
Headteachers' leaders and the school's chairman of governors are blaming the intense pressure on heads for the behaviour of Helen Quick, of Wyndham Primary School, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Miss Quick, 46, who joined the school in January 1994, altered answers to maths and science tests sat by 11-year-old pupils last month in an attempt to correct their mistakes and improve her school's results.
She kept her secret for nearly a month before confessing to her union, the National Association of Head Teachers, which advised her to tell the local education authority.
Wyndham Primary School had recently been given a clean bill of health by Ofsted inspectors after a critical report in 1998 when the school was identified as having "serious weaknesses". However, inspectors who visited the school in March were still concerned at the school's low standards, particularly in maths and science. Union officials said that Miss Quick had been worried that another set of poor results could jeopardise the school's recovery.
Miss Quick, a headteacher for 16 years, worked seven days a week and took on extra duties because her school did not have a deputy head.
Schools are under increasing pressure to improve their national test results. Each school has its own targets as part of its contribution to the Government's national targets based on the English and maths tests. Wyndham Primary's results were way under target, particularly in maths – with just 63 per cent reaching the required standards compared with the 85 per cent target last year.
The 30 Wyndham pupils who sat the tests have now had their results annulled and the school's scores will not appear in this year's league tables. Instead, children will receive unofficial gradings based on teachers' assessment of their performance.
The NAHT blamed the stress of the job yesterday for Miss Quick's "error of judgement". John Heslop, the NAHT regional officer, said: "Modern headship increasingly involves headteachers in more stress than in the past. This can lead to errors of judgement such as this one. Helen's integrity before this incident was impeccable, and reinforced by her actions in drawing the attention of the local education authority to the incident." Miss Quick was now "at a very low ebb" but had been determined to "come clean" despite the inevitable professional cost to herself.
The school's chairman of governors said Miss Quick's actions had been completely out of character.