Teacher went from Olympic hopeful to 'moment of madness'

A one-time Olympic martial arts hopeful turned school teacher who was widely praised for his coaching and professionalism faces being banned from the profession.

Before finding himself staring down the barrel of being sanctioned for his role in helping a student cheat on his exams, Adam Lowery was a high-flying judo athlete with ideals of competing at the highest level of all. For a period of time, the former Rainford High School science teacher was the second highest ranked judoka in Great Britain and a full-time athlete.

Now a self-proclaimed “moment of madness” could spell the end of a long career in education after his actions in 2021 were deemed to be unacceptable professional conduct.

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Three years ago, with GCSE exams suspended owing to the coronavirus pandemic, grades for year 11 students were informed by internal testing and teachers' marks. A teacher regulation agency (TRA) was told last week how a boy, known only as pupil A, was expected to achieve relatively standard grades.

However, he would go on to receive a helping hand from Mr Lowery, who had worked at the school since 2019. In March 2021, pupil A sat three internal exams to which would go toward his final mark.

Two days of hearings were told he scored 44 out of a possible 45 on two out of three exams and 41 out of 46 on a third. Prior to this, he had been provided with exam questions and the marking scheme by Mr Lowery, who would go on to invigilate the physics exam pupil A took part in.

Concerns were first raised by three teachers independently who identified pupil A’s exam marks as "extraordinarily high", and said answers were similar to those within the documents made available to staff only. Richard Spedding, the school’s head of physics, brought the matter to the attention of leadership.

Pupil A was interviewed and said he had achieved the grades “through hard work” before backtracking and claiming to have got the answers online. He said this was due to the “pressure to do well.”

Mr Lowery was also interviewed on the same day and said he had prepared all pupils in the same way but had created preparation for pupil A online. It transpired later he had in fact given pupil A a pack and told him how to answer the questions.

The hearings were told the former teacher - who resigned in May 2021 - initially lied as he was “terrified” of the situation. Pupil A’s results on the three tests were ultimately disregarded for his final GCSE mark.

Questioned by his advocate, Jonathan Storey, Mr Lowery said he felt he had let down the community and the school through his behaviour in a “moment of madness and stupidity.” He added: “Not a moment goes by where I don’t regret it but I can’t turn the clock back.”

He said he “deeply regretted the shame brought on all parties concerned.” Mr Storey said his client had “developed a sense of embarrassment” and “accepts he acted as no teacher should.”

Presenting officer Shannon O’Connor said Mr Lowery had “deliberately and knowingly” given pupil A the answers and there was “no doubt” he knew his actions were dishonest. Ms O’Connor argued Mr Lowery’s behaviour had gone against the “basic moral activity expected from teachers.”

Mr Storey said the former science teacher still had a “huge amount to offer” to the profession and was a professional who had spent “three years in exile” since the incident in 2021. Recalling testimonies from former colleagues, Mr Storey said his client had previously “demonstrated excellent professional judgement.”

Despite this, a three person panel said the former teacher and athlete - who secured medals at competitions as recently as this year at the British Judo senior event in Yorkshire - said his conduct had amounted to unacceptable professional conduct and his actions had brought the profession into disrepute.

Now, his teaching future hangs in the balance as the panel have decided in private if they will impose a sanction on Mr Lowery that could prevent him re-entering the classroom ever again.

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