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Head said Orient Express trip was not excessive

A secondary headteacher who gave rewards to his teachers, including a trip for two on the Orient Express, has claimed the "team-building and motivation payments" were given the official go-ahead.

Michael Wilkins, principal of Outwood Grange Academy in Wakefield, hit out at claims that he and his governing body acted "extravagantly" or "excessively" in rewarding staff.

He found himself at the centre of a media storm after a council investigation into the school's finances before it converted to an academy.

Concerns were first raised when the Yorkshire Post revealed Mr Wilkins had received pound;1 million of public money over four years in consultancy payments for his work to raise standards across nearly half a dozen schools in the area.

And, according to an audit carried out later by Wakefield Council, Outwood Grange spent pound;499 sending a teacher and her partner on a trip on the Orient Express.

The audit report questioned the motives behind the school spending pound;176 on 22 bottles of champagne to treat staff after good exam results.

But Mr Wilkins refuted any claim of "excessive rewards", adding that a great deal of local animosity towards the school stemmed from its decision to switch to academy status.

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