THE former headteacher of a village primary school near Chester has been banned from teaching after he admitted altering pupils' exam papers.

Stephen Mitchell, 56, was working at Eaton Primary School near Tarporley in 2016 when he made several changes to pupils' work in the Key Stage 2 National Curriculum tests.

An investigation by the Standards and Testing Agency discovered a “number of irregularities” and the papers of two pupils were later annulled.

The national exams are designed to test pupils' knowledge of grammar, punctuation and spelling and Mr Mitchell admitted adding the letter 'e' to one paper and 't' to another, among other amendments.

He accepted he had brought the profession into disrepute and resigned on December 31 last year, describing his actions as “inexcusable”.

A panel of the National College for Teaching and Leadership met to discuss the case and recommended the Education Secretary impose an indefinite ban with a review period of two years, which has now been approved.

Its report, published last week, states that Mr Mitchell was highly regarded as a teacher and had expressed “insight and remorse”.

It says: “The panel has taken full account of the supportive and relevant testimonials and references which had been submitted on behalf of Mr Mitchell. They speak of his preparedness to work extremely hard and of his commitment to the pupils and to the wider community. Similar remarks are contained in the account provided by the governors of the school.

“Mr Mitchell has a previously good history and, on the evidence before it, the panel accepts that the incident was an isolated one and out of character.”

However, the panel stressed that the role of a headteacher is to set the correct example to pupils and staff at all times.

“Indeed, he sets the tone for the school,” its report states. “Very many people, to include pupils, parents, staff and the local community, look to him to manifest behaviour of the highest order of integrity and honesty.

“Pupils, parents and staff must be able to place complete trust in the integrity of the examination process. The fact that the headteacher of the school has acted dishonestly in attempting to deliberately mislead others in order to improve the results of pupils and thereby the school as a whole sets the worst possible example to those pupils, parents and staff and, indeed, other schools.

“Accordingly, the panel makes a recommendation to the Secretary of State that a prohibition order should be imposed with immediate effect.”

The ruling means Mr Mitchell is banned from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England.

He can apply for the prohibition order to be set aside after two years.