Loyalty at the top delayed departure

23rd January 1998 at 00:00
The only surprising thing about Roger Ward's departure last week was that it took so long in coming.

Many principals were horrified when it became clear that he had misled the Commons' Education and Employment Select Committee, and thought he should have gone then.

Others thought he should have been suspended when The TES revealed he had been paid Pounds 650 a month in a consultancy agreement. The board had in fact considered this, but last November Mr Ward still had its majority support. There was much personal loyalty to him.

Graham Baskerville, vice-chair of the Association of Colleges, wrote to all members last Wednesday, giving them prior notice that Mr Ward would be leaving. Mr Baskerville wrote that the parting was by mutual agreement:

"Your board was aware that the McKeag inquiry was taking much longer than expected with lawyers engaged to represent all parties. Meanwhile Roger Ward approached me to explore under what terms he could leave . . .

"Consequently Jim Scrimshaw and I met Roger last Friday to discuss the details. We recommended to the board yesterday that an agreement with Roger was the most practical and certainly the most cost-effective way forward. After taking legal advice, the board instructed me to conclude the negotiations and to sign the document."

Mr Ward will leave the AOC at the end of January, with three months' salary.

"The membership will judge whether it feels that settlement is generous or not. It is important to appreciate that, on the one hand, the board was prepared to proceed with an inquiry and that, on the other, Roger was prepared to defend himself, in the absence of an agreement. The legal costs of the process would be very great," wrote Mr Baskerville.

But there had been concerns about Mr Ward for some time. His independent and assertive style may have endeared him to some, but he needed to be reined in.

In his early days, he bought a Pounds 240 leather case and claimed it on his expenses. A special committee was later set up to vet his spending. If he incurred expenditure of more than Pounds 10, he had to produce a voucher. A strategy group was established to ensure that Mr Ward did not do any shooting from the hip on policy issues. But he was a highly successful vote-winner. He had a core group of selected principals. They would all have a section of a master list of contacts to work on and to build up support.

This core group would get extra support from Mr Ward, such as help with salary reviews, legal assistance and national committee membership.

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