London

Head teacher 'misused public money'

Jo Shuter
Image caption Jo Shuter was named Head Teacher of the Year at the 2007 Teaching Awards

A former London head teacher of the year presided over misuse of public funds, a government report has found.

Jo Shuter, head of Quintin Kynaston Community Academy, in St John's Wood, was suspended over financial issues in 2012 but was later reinstated.

A Department for Education report has found the school's spending amounted to "misuse of public money".

Ms Shuter could not be contacted for comment.

The report, which looked at spending between January 2011 and August 2012, downgraded the school's self-assessment of its own financial performance from "good" to "inadequate".

The academy's performance, when it came to proper and regular use of public funds, was also judged "inadequate" instead of "good".

And the school's assessment of its own financial controls was downgraded as well.

'Landscaping' costs

Examples of financial irregularities highlighted by the investigation included £6,957 spent on Ms Shuter's 50th birthday party, which was held at the academy.

That included costs for staff time, catering, alcohol, food, party lights and "landscaping".

The money came out of the school's budget and was not repaid by Ms Shuter for more than a year.

The report also criticised the head teacher for money spent on flowers, saying: "The practice in the academy is to purchase flowers and birthday cakes for [senior staff members'] birthdays.

"We identified that since becoming an academy £3,474 has been spent on flowers."

A £300 Selfridges gift voucher was purchased using the academy credit card when one staff member left in April 2012, although £220 of that sum was then contributed by senior staff.

The report also detailed how senior staff members held off-site meetings at exclusive hotels.

An overnight meeting held in January 2012 at the Grove Hotel, in Chandlers Cross, cost £8,269.

Meanwhile, another meeting at the Landmark Hotel - where the cost of rooms was up to £323 a night - set the school's finances back £4,410.

The report authors said: "All the costs for these stays are paid for by the academy and the cost of these meetings has to be questioned on value-for-money grounds."

Image caption A staff meeting at the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone cost £4,410

In another incident which caused the report authors concern, the academy bought chairs to the value of £1,579, which were delivered to Ms Shuter's home.

She then brought different chairs into the academy she had previously purchased - which she claimed were more expensive.

However, evidence to support this claim was apparently not provided by Ms Shuter.

By way of general advice, the report told school governors: "The governing body should consider the need to address the risk to the academy of the Bribery Act 2010."

Responding to the probe, a DfE spokeswoman said: "The misuse of public money meant for schools is completely unacceptable.

"The Education Funding Agency has issued a Financial Notice to Improve to Quintin Kynaston.

"We will not lift that notice until the school has made sufficient progress to address the identified weaknesses."

She added: "We are monitoring the situation closely and will take any further action necessary."

'Outstanding' school

The DfE has agreed with Quintin Kynaston that all irregular payments made since the school became an academy should be repaid to the Education Funding Agency.

Ms Shuter, who has been at the academy since 2002, was named head teacher of the year at the 2007 Teaching Awards and appointed CBE in June 2010.

Under her, the school has been rated "outstanding" by Ofsted.

Patrick Lees, chairman of the board of governors, told the BBC he had seen the report but could not discuss its details at this time.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "On 12 September police were made aware of possible financial irregularities.

"An allegation of fraud/false accounting has been made to police.

"The allegation continues to be investigated. There has been no arrest."

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