Mystery surrounds the position of a principal for five schools, including one in Gosberton, who was suspended over a misconduct allegation made against her.
Carol Clare (54), who was chief executive officer (CEO) of Phoenix Family of Schools Academy Trust (PFOS), was suspended in January after a claim that she had suggested falsifying forecasted pupil numbers for a school due to open in Spalding this month.
Mrs Clare’s name and photograph has been removed from the senior leadership team page on PFOS’s website and her own online business profile states that she was CEO of the trust until August 2014.
A report from the Department for Education (DfE), which carried out an investigation into “possible governance issues and financial irregularites” at the trust, accused Mrs Clare of showing a “lack of integrity” in dealing with the proposed Inspirar Bilingual Academy in Spalding.
Plans to open the school for four to 11-year-olds were abandoned after what PFOS chairman of governors Denzil Shepheard described as a “disappointing” response from families in the area.
But the DfE report said: “Concerns were raised about how the forecast pupil numbers for the school were arrived at, with allegations being made that the CEO (Mrs Clare) had suggesting inflating the forecast pupil numbers.
“This issue had already been raised with the trust and the chairman (Denzil Shepheard) had commissioned (educational support group) Mouchel to undertake an investigation.
“The Mouchel report concluded that the CEO did suggest that the figures submitted to the DfE be inflated to present a higher level of interest than had been evidenced through their initial promotional events.
“Mouchel also concluded that by suggesting that the figures should be inflated, the DEO had shown a lack of integrity which could have potentially damaged the reputation of the trust and was not in line with its Code of Conduct policy.
“The policy states that ‘staff must maintain the highest standards of honesty and integrity in their work’ and the trust is in the process of convening a disciplinary hearing into the matter.”
Neither PFOS, Mouchel nor the DfS were able or prepared to confirm whether Mrs Clare had been sacked or had resigned as a result of the investigation which also included irregular expense claims. For example, the DfS showed that almost £100 worth of expenses had been claimed for alcohol from the trust between January and December 2013 “when the cost of alcohol cannot be claimed”.
There were also concerns about exchange visits between senior staff, including Mrs Clare, and teachers from a school in India last year which cost more than £4,700, against a budget of £3,000 funded through a grant from the British Council.
At the time of Mrs Clare’s suspension, Mr Shepheard said: “An allegation has been made, an investigation is under way and when it’s completed, a hearing will take place with directors and they will come to a decision.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever had to deal with something of this nature but that’s why procedures are in place so that people can be treated fairly and equitably. Mrs Clare’s suspension is disappointing but we’re following the correct procedures.”