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'I'll fight on' says sacked principal

A COLLEGE principal has pledged to clear his name after being sacked for gross misconduct by governors.

Christopher Fulford, 68, was sacked from his pound;83,000-a-year job by Blackpool Sixth Form College governors after being accused of financial irregularities over a disputed pound;20 expenses claim.

Mr Fulford, who was suspended four months ago pending the outcome of the investigations, also claims he was the victim of a personality clash with chair of governors John McGlynn. He says he will sue for breach of contract in the courts or claim unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal. He is discussing his options with a barrister provided by the National Association of Head Teachers.

The accusations against Mr Fulford include a charge that he made an expenses claim for travelling back from a conference in Birmingham which was 90 miles more than it should have been, defrauding the college of pound;20. He says he claimed too much by mistake.

The college is being run temporarily by Jeff Holland, the deputy principal. In a statement, the college says governors found gross misconduct in a "unanimous" vote on Thursday last week - but it has emerged one governor, employment specialist Bill Dickinson, left the meeting before the vote was taken, having protestd that it should not have gone ahead.

Mr Dickinson is an employment consultant to the Federation of Small Businesses and a firm of solictors in Blackpool. He previously worked as a specialist with the Department of Employment.

The Further Education Funding Council inspection in March 1998 rated governance at the college as "weak" and awarded it a grade 4. It said the board did not conduct its business openly or in accordance with the instruments and articles of government and had no arrangements for the appraisal of senior postholders.

Mr Fulford has been in charge of the college for 20 years, during which time the A-level pass rate improved from less than 50 per cent to 92 per cent and student numbers grew from 600 to 1,100.

He says letters of support he has received from former colleagues may be used as evidence of his reputation and says he won't accept an out-of-court settlement from the governing body unless it publicly clears his name.

Mr Fulford, of Preston, Lancashire, said: "I just want to prove to people that I have done nothing wrong. I was walking through the area near the college the other day and felt quite strange because I felt people were looking at me thinking 'there's that principal who's been sacked'."

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