Head's year of foreign travel

25th June 2004 at 01:00
GTC panel consider whether pound;15,000 on trips abroad to find superfluous teachers was a misuse of public funds. Tara Fawcett reports.

An east London headteacher spent pound;15,000 from school funds on overseas trips to recruit teachers despite having no staffing problems, England's General Teaching Council was told.

It heard that Paul Regan overpaid unqualified foreign staff, appointed one overseas teacher without a work permit and gave another the school piano as a present.

At a hearing last week, Mr Regan was accused of misusing school property and funds, and disregarding school rules, the authority of the governing body and the London borough of Newham.

The former head of Kingsford community college, Plaistow, was not present at the hearing in Birmingham and the committee will reconvene to make its decision.

It heard that Mr Regan paid nearly pound;1,000 to fly Jenny Song from China for a meeting before hiring her on an annual salary of more than pound;33,000, allowing her to start late and work a four-day week.

He was also said to have paid Martine St-Pierre, another unqualified teacher, pound;7,000 more than she should have received.

Both women, who were promised cash for recruiting other overseas teachers, were taken off the timetable and given business roles shortly after their appointments, the GTC heard.

The Rev Quentin Peppiatt, Kingsford's chair of governors, accused Mr Regan of cherry-picking bright primary children and not telling him about pupil exclusions.

"He would visit primary schools, I gather, with a record of high achievement," said Mr Peppiatt. "It was clear from discussions with him that he did not want to admit certain pupils - I would describe this as cherry-picking."

The GTC also heard that Mr Regan leased school premises to the Chinese Society, a local group which he chaired, at reduced rates.

Mr Regan was suspended in February 2002 and resigned shortly after when the council began to investigate his conduct.

Robert Bourns, presenting officer, said the overseas recruitment scheme was not authorised by school governors and that pound;15,000 spent on 10 trips abroad within 13 months was a misuse of public funds.

The GTC heard that Mr Regan appointed Ling Ying Lui without a work permit, employed a assistant to work as a teacher and created a position, without council consent, for another assistant.

Ian Poole, representing Mr Regan, said Miss Song and Miss St-Pierre took on duties beyond what was expected of unqualified teachers and were paid accordingly.

He said that although it was unusual to recruit teachers from abroad it was not untoward and the money spent on the trips was meant to promote future income for the school.

Mr Poole dismissed claims that Miss Song was treated differently, adding that the piano was a free gift from another school and that Miss Song, as a parent, worked flexible hours.

In relation to Miss Lui's employment, Mr Poole said: "Mr Regan received an application form in which she said she had the right to work in this country.

"He advised the bursar to place her on a pay scheme and that really was the totality of his involvement in it."

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