Brent faces third case of 'financial irregularity'

10th February 2012 at 00:00
Council suspends headteacher over 'alleged breaches'

A third head has been suspended by Brent Council over separate allegations of financial mismanagement at schools in the northwest London borough, it has emerged. The authority took control of the budget at Kensal Rise Primary School in Kilburn last week and suspended head Joyce Page after an "investigation into alleged breaches of financial regulation".

This is the third recent case of alleged "financial irregularity" by heads in Brent's schools. Last year, Sir Alan Davies, former head of Copland Community School in Wembley, was arrested alongside six other people on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud. All seven are on police bail until next month. Brent Council also took control of the budget at Furness Primary School in Harlesden last year and sacked Alan King as head, after allegations of "serious mismanagement of the school".

Hank Roberts, a teaching union official and head of geography at Copland, first spoke out in 2009 about nearly #163;1 million in bonuses being paid to senior staff at the secondary over seven years. He thinks his case has given staff at other local schools the confidence to blow the whistle where they believed there was mismanagement. "In Brent, they have found one example and pursued it," he said. "That is why more have come out in Brent."

Mr Roberts, who will become president of teaching union ATL next year, said the fact that cases were still emerging despite tighter controls in Brent was an indication of similar problems in schools across the country. He understood that, despite greater vigilance from the council, school staff had still needed to raise the alarm in the other Brent cases. "What this means across the rest of the country is that there is still mass large-scale robbery of taxpayers' funds in education," he said. "And they are introducing thousands of academies and free schools (that will be) independent from local authority scrutiny. It will only get worse. It will be a free-for-all for robbery."

Brent Council told TES that Ms Page had been suspended "pending disciplinary action". "This is a neutral act and should not be seen as pre-judgement of the issues by the council," a spokesman said. "Nor does it imply any guilt or wilful misconduct on the part of the suspended employee.

"Incidents of serious mismanagement and financial irregularity in Brent schools are rare. But where they do happen, the council takes them very seriously and acts quickly.

"An acting headteacher has been appointed and will ensure that the well-being and education of pupils is not affected."

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