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Parents back head over suspension

Parents and governors have rallied to the defence of a headteacher who has been suspended while an investigation is carried out into his school's Pounds 800,000 budget deficit.

Parents of pupils at Islington arts and media school, the high-profile north London comprehensive, were lobbying Islington council last night over the suspension of Richard Ewen.

As The TES reported last week, Mr Ewen was suspended after CEA@Islington, the company running the borough's education services, said it had serious concerns about the school's handling of the deficit. Bill Clark, CEA@Islington director of schools services, said: "The school has a budget deficit of more than Pounds 800,000 and we do not have evidence that action has been taken by the headteacher to eliminate this deficit within a reasonable timescale."

The deficit was pound;682,000 last year, and the school had agreed it would decrease it, but instead it had increased, said the statement.

However, the school's governing body issued a counter-statement, attacking the suspension as "unreasonable and an apparent act of malicious victimisation".

It said Mr Ewen had been suspended for failing to answer questions about the management of the school to CEA@Islington, but that this information had, in fact, been passed to the company.

It added that the school had already been pound;800,000 in debt when Mr Ewen became its headteacher in 2000.

CEA@Islington, however, said that it had not received the answers to its questions by the time the decision to suspend Mr Ewen was taken. The investigation relates to financial management at the school and there is no suggestion of fraud.

Parents passed a unanimous motion in support of Mr Ewen at a meeting this week, pointing to the school's transformation under his leadership.

Mr Ewen resigned from a previous school which had budget difficulties five years ago, The TES has learned. An inspection report on Teddington school from March 2000, less than a year after Mr Ewen resigned as head of that school in July 1999, mentions a "large deficit in the school's budget". The figure was reported at the time as pound;100,000. Richmond upon Thames council said at the time that his resignation was unconnected to the deficit.

A spokeswoman for CEA@Islington said Mr Ewen's suspension related solely to matters at the Islington secondary.

Mr Ewen, whose leadership at IAMS was praised by inspectors as "inspirational" only six months ago, has been credited with turning round the Islington school.

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