Durand ‘sacked senior leader after his row with the head’

30th September 2016 at 06:02
Durand boarding school
Under-fire academy trust is accused of breaking the law in its dismissal of head of boarding

A high-profile academy trust allegedly sacked a senior leader in breach of employment law, following his disagreements with the organisation over its approach to a string of government demands, according to documents seen by TES.

The allegation is the latest controversy to hit Durand Academy Trust, which could have its public funding withdrawn.

The trust was founded by the former head of its primary school, Sir Greg Martin, who was found to have earned nearly £400,000 in a single year, partly through a leisure centre he ran on the school site.

The south London-based trust runs a free boarding school in West Sussex and – as TES revealed last week – has recruited a new head of boarding, who is subject to a professional-conduct case.

It has now emerged that Durand’s former head of boarding, Hakim Taylor, claims he was dismissed from his role without proper process and after the chair of governors had expressed satisfaction with his performance.

It is alleged that the dismissal was at least in part caused by Mr Taylor’s disagreement with Durand acting executive headteacher Mark McLaughlin’s “belligerent” tone in the trust’s dispute with the Department for Education’s Education Funding Agency (EFA).

In July, the EFA set out a list of changes it wanted the trust to make in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest, and said funding could be withdrawn if these were not carried out. The trust has refused to comply and said it is prepared to challenge the EFA in court.

In the meantime, Mr Taylor’s solicitor has written to Mr McLaughlin and the Durand governing body, alleging that the chair of governors wrote to Mr Taylor, praising his performance and offering him a pay rise and contract extension. But "within days" of this being accepted by Mr Taylor, Mr McLaughlin criticised his performance and advised him he would be demoted, involving a £35,000 pay cut, according to one of the solicitor's letter.

It is understood that Mr Taylor was sacked after he threatened to sue the trust for unfair dismissal if he took the demotion and advised the trust that he reserved the right to make a public disclosure to the academy’s regulators regarding Mr McLaughlin's conduct.

The correspondence suggests that one reason for the alleged sudden change in approach to Mr Taylor was the fact that he wanted to be "more cooperative with the demands made by the EFA" than Mr McLaughlin who, the letters allege, was adopting a "belligerent" tone.

Mr McLaughlin and Durand Academy Trust have declined to comment.

TES understands from the letters sent by Mr Taylor’s solicitors that, in addition to performance concerns, allegations may also have been made that Mr Taylor lost the confidence of his management team, and bullied and harassed another individual. Both allegations have been denied by Mr Taylor. 

This is an edited article from the 23 September edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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