Parents' group ignored warning

11th July 1997 at 01:00
The troubled national parents' organisation currently under attack from the Charity Commissioners was warned two years ago that its key officials could be in breach of the law.

Memos obtained by The TES this week reveal serious concerns within the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations about staff who were former trustees being on its executive committee. The law says that trustees may not benefit from the charity for which they are responsible.

The new evidence emerged after the publication of a highly critical report by the Charity Commission on the 40-year-old organisation which represents 11,500 schools.

It shows warnings were given in 1995 and 1996 by Sandi Marshall, a former trustee. She instigated the commission investigation with Sean Rogers, the former chair-elect. Both were removed by the NCPTA's executive in November.

Ian Price, the past chair, said: "I agree that it could be judged in retrospect that we failed to take heed of those warnings. Although it would be a harsh judgment."

Margaret Morrissey, press officer and a Dorset publican, Andrew Smetham, treasurer and head of The Purbeck School in Wareham, Dorset, and Belinda Yaxley, membership secretary, now face charges from the commission that "they may have benefited from their position of trust".

The commission has granted the three former trustees an interim order which sanctions their continued employment but it is unclear how long this will last.

The commission, which has criticised the NCPTA for running up large hotel bills and high expenses, is to "monitor the resolution of the issue". It has suggested that the staff resign and possibly pay back thousands of pounds in salary. None is expected to do so.

Mrs Morrissey, a past chair of the NCPTA who was given an OBE for her work, said: "If I did, it would imply I had done something wrong or that I was guilty and I am not."

The commission has urged a complete strategic review of NCPTA and Ms Marshall and Mr Rogers have said they feel vindicated. The pair are now seeking an apology, damages and want to be reinstated as trustees.

News, page 3

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