Headteacher in cash row with governors

A SUSPENDED headteacher was involved in a major row with governors in charge of the school's finances two terms before disciplinary action was taken, the EADT has learned.

By Juliette Maxam

A SUSPENDED headteacher was involved in a major row with governors in charge of the school's finances two terms before disciplinary action was taken, the EADT has learned.

Russell Moon was suspended from Philip Morant School, Colchester, last month while a number of allegations - which have not been made public - are investigated by the governing body.

He has been on secondment to create a global network for schools for iNet since September.

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The EADT has learned, through the Freedom of Information Act, that relations between Mr Moon and some of his governors had deteriorated to such a point that last year he told the finance committee he had no confidence in it and threatened to resign from the governing body.

The row broke out at a meeting of the finance committee in May, when Mr Moon proposed a scheme to provide laptops for sixth formers in the school college.

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Mr Moon proposed that laptops which had been used by teachers for 18 months should be sold to students and money raised should go towards leasing new laptops for teachers.

After a discussion which lasted nearly two hours, the committee voted on Mr Moon's proposal that the finance committee approve a one-year laptop scheme in principle and a working party would work out the detail.

Mr Moon lost, with two people voting for, four against and three abstaining, including chairman of the governors Geoff Davison.

According to minutes of the meeting "the headteacher asked for clarification of the vote, which he did not believe to be accurate". He also wanted to identify who had voted against the scheme.

Parent governor Professor John Owens, who voted against the proposal, called for the meeting to be adjourned as the headteacher was "out of order".

The chairman, Lorna Kean, wanted to move on to the next item on the agenda, but Mr Moon continued to challenge the vote and to ask governors how they had voted.

The clerk, Marian Clegg, called the meeting to order and confirmed the vote had been accurate.

But, the minutes state: "The headteacher said that he now had no confidence in the finance committee. "The headteacher said that he could not accept corporate responsibility on this decision and that he therefore resigned from the governing body.

"The clerk asked the headteacher to confirm his resignation in writing. The chairman of governors advised the headteacher to reconsider his resignation overnight."

A month later the finance committee met again and passed a new version of the scheme, which had been drawn up by Mr Davison, staff governor Sue Cowans (currently acting head), parent governor Timothy Harrison and deputy headteacher Leigh Hunter.

Also at that meeting, the committee was told Mr Moon had not apologised following his statement of no confidence, nor had he confirmed his resignation in writing.

Yesterday Mr Moon said at the time he was worried turning down the proposal, which had already been approved by the curriculum committee, would jeopardise £60,000 of government funding and the school's relationship with Microsoft.

He said: "I did not have confidence in the 4:3:2 vote because I was not convinced that all decisions regarding the votes had been made on financial grounds.  

"I wanted to reframe the proposal and have the opportunity of a recount, because the vote was so close and three governors had abstained.

"Unfortunately I was prevented from doing this and we moved on to the next item on the agenda. 

"I did not feel that I could support the vote and said I would resign as a governor. Later, I reconsidered this decision." 

He added: "It was very regrettable that this happened in a governors meeting. We were all very passionate in the meeting about providing the very best education for the students at Philip Morant. "We also wanted to give the staff the best information technology support we could. 

"I am pleased that College students now have their laptops.  It is unfortunate that this difference of opinion has come into the public domain via the governors minutes but the incident is now in the past and hopefully we can all put it behind us and focus on working together for the future of the school."

Mrs Kean did not want to comment yesterday.

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