Sacked head's Russian disgrace

27th May 2005 at 01:00
Disciplinary panel hears charges of illegally obtained work permits, suspicious overspending and secretive business partnerships

A primary headteacher who allegedly procured a work permit on behalf of a Russian teacher under false pretences has been charged with unacceptable professional conduct.

England's General Teaching Council heard that John Mann arranged an overseas teacher work permit for Natalia Vedernikova in September 2002, yet when she began in November it was as his personal assistant.

Michael Smith, assistant director of community strategy for Southwark council, told the hearing that Mr Mann, formerly head at Gloucester primary in Peckham, south London, had obtained the work permit under false pretences.

He said that during a council investigation Ms Vedernikova admitted never having taught in the school.

There was no teaching post for her at Gloucester primary as the previous summer the 600-pupil school had appointed six new teachers, from Russia and Bulgaria.

Mr Smith told the committee: "I concluded that Mr Mann had no intention of employing Ms Vedernikova in a teaching capacity."

Savita Pindora, the school's bursar, told the committee that Mr Mann had wanted Ms Vedernikova to be paid a teacher's salary and to pay her an advance while she was still living in Russia. He claimed Ms Vedernikova was fulfilling administrative duties prior to her arrival, she said.

Mr Mann faces further charges of failing to disclose a private business partnership with Roger Cole, who he employed as a consultant to the school and who was paid in excess of pound;23,000 for his services.

He is accused of failing to observe council tendering procedures when buying services for the school and spending above his limit without the governors' consent, including pound;13,000 on a new telephone system.

Ms Pindora wrote to Ruaof Ben Salem, chair of governors, to convey her "concern and suspicion" that Mr Mann was trying to disguise his overspending.

She told the committee that Mr Mann had inherited a surplus of pound;250,000 when he took over at the school in January 2001, yet by the time he was suspended nearly two years later the school had only a small surplus.

Mr Mann was suspended in December 2002 after governors asked the council to investigate him. He was dismissed a short time later for gross misconduct.

He did not attend the disciplinary hearing in Birmingham last week nor was he represented. The case was adjourned and the disciplinary committee will reconvene, at a later date, to consider its verdict.

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