A superhead tasked with transforming a failing school said she acted in the “best interests” of pupils by ordering attendance records to be altered, a disciplinary hearing was told.
Dame Mo Brennan sanctioned disruptive students to stay home with study packs ahead of GCSE exams rather than face permanent exclusions, panel members heard. She claimed the move would mean pupil records would not be stained.
In particular she feared problems for youngsters trying to get a job or secure a college place on leaving The Hillcrest School and Community College, in Netherton, Dudley. But Dame Mo refuted claims she was a “risk-taker” going against national guidelines in order to boost attendance records and perceptions of the school’s GCSE results.
She helped Hillcrest out of special measures in 2002 with Ofsted inspectors later classing it “outstanding”.
Awarded the title of Dame for her work, she is currently head at Barr Beacon School in Aldridge and previously worked at Great Barr High School. Dame Mo described Hillcrest as “absolute bedlam” when she took over in September 2000.
She told the hearing she instructed Mrs Westwood to tell admin staff to change records but she claimed she did not have direct discussions with Mrs Derham about the practice.
She said: “I acknowledge that the registers were changed with a small number of year 11 students from U representing unauthorised absence to B representing being educated off site.
“The reason for this was that it would be unacceptable for the children in year 11 to leave school with the stigma of a permanent exclusion.”
When questioned by Teaching Agency presenting officer Bradley Aubuery, Dame Mo admitted the outcome of this was att-endance figures were “artificially inflated”. She dismissed claims that the school was looking to save money through not paying to have pupils educated off site or paying fines should students be excluded.
She appeared in front of a Teaching Agency professional conduct panel yesterday with teachers Shelley Derham and Linda Westwood. All deny charges of unacceptable professional conduct.
The hearing continues.