'Champers' head will never run a school again

6th August 2010 at 01:00
Record-breaking number of charges, including bullying and dishonesty, earns lifetime ban

A secondary school headteacher who faced a record-breaking number of unacceptable professional conduct charges has been banned from working as a school leader.

It is "not in the public interest" for Despina Pavlou to be a head or deputy, according to a General Teaching Council for England (GTC) panel.

The former head of The Lord Grey School in Milton Keynes was accused of bullying, harassment, dishonesty and forcing staff to lie, while "financial irregularities" were discovered at her school. Ms Pavlou was charged with more than 30 offences by the GTC, the highest number ever faced by a teacher.

She bought pink champagne, wine and a wooden shed using school funds, even though it was facing a budget deficit at the time.

Ms Pavlou also travelled to Australia business class, telling governers she needed to "recruit staff" and had to travel business class because of her health, which she said had deteriorated owing to the pressures of running a school. However, she had booked the tickets four months previously.

Her "dictatorial" behaviour was criticised by a GTC panel, which said she would be likely to repeat this style of working in the future.

"Ms Pavlou seriously demeaned pupils and colleagues. she failed to maintain appropriate standards of honesty and integrity in management duties, including the use of school property and finance, and that she otherwise brought the standing of the profession into serious disrepute," it said.

Ms Pavlou became head of the school in September 2000 when it was failing and was praised by inspectors three years later for the improvements she had made. But in January 2006, seven members of her senior leadership team made a formal complaint, saying she bullied and harassed staff and students.

Colin Bayne-Jardine, an independent education consultant, was appointed to investigate. Ms Pavlou was suspended in March 2006 and sacked that November. An employment tribunal hearing later said her dismissal had been unfair.

However, the GTC panel said her perceived "positive and focused" attitude "manifested itself into bullying and dictatorial behaviour" and that she breached corporate governance and kept vital information and decisions from the governing body.

Ms Pavlou did not share internal audit reports with the school governors, believing they were "private and confidential". She also made decisions that should have been made by the governors, failed to tell them or informed them when it was too late for them to be involved.

This included axing the pound;90,000 school cleaning contract and giving a member of staff pound;780 for council tax and rent and pound;260 a month for travelling.

Ms Pavlou also failed to tell governors when the examining body OCR and a parent complained that children were colluding during assessment.

Ms Pavlou told staff to "provide dishonest information on her behalf" about who was entitled to sign cheques, and she continued to pay one teacher after he had left the school. She employed a relative as a consultant without telling all governors, failed to make sure all staff had Criminal Records Bureau checks and arranged insurance which provided insufficient cover.

"Throughout her evidence, Ms Pavlou failed to acknowledge failings on her part despite clear evidence to that effect," the panel said. "This undermined her credibility as a witness and demonstrated a lack of insight on her part. There has been no expression of regret or apology."

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