'I was conned' says head who presented illegal pyramid scheme to staff

26th August 2011 at 01:00
He claims GTC investigation into his conduct was an 'overreaction'

A faith-school headteacher who called a staff meeting to explain an illegal "pyramid" money-making scheme that he had invested in has been found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.

Chris Raymond, who was head of Nailsworth CofE Primary School in Gloucestershire, was found to have given an after-school talk to teachers about the Give and Take scheme, also called Key to a Fortune.

It relied on investors being persuaded to hand over #163;3,000, with the promise of a #163;23,000 return within weeks if they recruited enough new members.

Eleven alleged organisers from the Bristol area are awaiting trial following an Office of Fair Trading investigation into the scheme, which collapsed in 2009 having generated an estimated #163;20 million. Thousands of people including Mr Raymond are thought to have lost money.

A General Teaching Council for England (GTC) panel ruled the headteacher had breached "the standards of propriety expected of the profession" by discussing the scheme at a staff meeting.

Panel chair Tony Neal told Mr Raymond he had been "naive and foolish" to participate in the investment, adding: "We also note that you were hesitating as to how to proceed with the meeting and to a degree recognising that to proceed was incompatible with your role.

"However, you went ahead, and to act as you did was unacceptable."

Mr Raymond told The TES that he thought the GTC case had been "an overreaction".

"It's one of those things. I was stupid enough to get conned into joining by somebody close to me. I believed it was OK," he said.

"Thousands of people were involved and unfortunately I ended up being one of the biggest victims. I came into teaching because I believed I could make a difference to children's lives and that's what I will keep doing."

The allegations against Mr Raymond arose in late 2008 after he announced he was leaving Nailsworth, and led to him losing his new job at Lakeside Primary in Cheltenham before he was due to take up the post in January 2009. None of the staff at Nailsworth invested in the pyramid scheme.

The former professional rugby player is now a director of an educational leadership training company called Packtypes.

"I'm developing a new product in education, and doing leadership workshops in schools and local authorities, and still doing a lot of work with kids," Mr Raymond said. "It depends how that goes whether I go back to teaching or not."

Separate to the pyramid scheme, Mr Raymond admitted to the GTC that he had allowed income from parking at the school to be used to fund staff social events without governors' consent.

The GTC did not ban Mr Raymond from teaching, but said he had to undertake a course in school finance before applying for another headship.

"I've been in limbo for nearly three years," said Mr Raymond. "I hoped people would see common sense before it got to this point. I think it's probably a bit harsh.

"But I welcome the chance of more financial training, as would 90 per cent of heads across the country."

Reprimanded

When heads roll

A primary head who used his school's debit card to buy a meal in a top London restaurant attached to the Savoy was suspended by the GTC in April this year. Richard Thomas, who was head of Tollerton Primary in Nottingham, was struck off for six months.

At Lord Grey School in Bletchley, Milton Keynes, head Despina Pavlou used the school budget to pay for a business-class flight to Australia on a trip she claimed was to "recruit staff". In August 2010, the GTC banned her from taking up future headteacher or deputy headteacher positions.

In May 2010, headteacher Gwilym Jones was suspended for two years for pocketing more than #163;5,000 for work as an adviser to a consultancy - money that should have gone to his school, Fazakerley Primary in Liverpool.

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