Former Suffolk school leaders found guilty of professional misconduct

Three former leaders of Samuel Ward Academy, part of Unity Schools Partnership, have been found guilty of misconduct

Three former leaders of Samuel Ward Academy, part of Unity Schools Partnership, have been found guilty of misconduct - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Three former leaders at a Suffolk school could face teaching bans after being found guilty of professional misconduct.

Howard Lay, Pat Stalker and Andy Prestoe, who worked at Haverhill's Samuel Ward Academy, appeared before a Teacher Regulation Agency (TRA) hearing in Coventry last Friday.

They were understood to be accused of off-rolling — removing a student from the school roll — in a bid to protect the academy's 'outstanding' rating from the watchdog.

Former executive head Mr Lay, ex-assistant head Ms Stalker and ex-principal Mr Prestoe have since left the trust running the school.

The Teacher Regulation Agency hearing was held last Friday

The Teacher Regulation Agency hearing was held last Friday - Credit: Charlotte Bond

The issues related to off-rolling, which were alleged to have happened between 2013 and 2016, and were first raised in 2018 when parents raised concerns about coursework.

An external investigation into the claims was held in the same year and passed its findings to the TRA.

Samuel Ward Academy's last Ofsted inspection, in March 2019, saw it rated 'requires improvement'.

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A spokesman for Unity Schools Partnership said the trust was "confident" no further off-rolling had taken place since 2016.

The spokesman said: "We have been informed by the Teacher Regulation Agency that they have found three former members of staff guilty of professional misconduct and are considering the sanctions to recommend to the Secretary of State.

Howard Lay, former executive head at Saumel Ward Academy

Howard Lay, former executive head at Saumel Ward Academy - Credit: Phil Morley

"We became aware of allegations in late 2017 and early 2018. We commissioned external investigations into these allegations and passed the outcomes of these investigations to the TRA in 2018.

"We checked very carefully the practice then at Samuel Ward Academy and were confident that there had been no malpractice since 2016.

"Unity Schools Partnership, and all our member schools, take any allegation of professional misconduct with the utmost seriousness.

"We are confident that the new leadership at the school, and across the trust, have had unwavering commitment to adhering to all government guidance."

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