Blow for Gove: One of 'Magnificent Seven' superheads resigns after IT contract probed

Greg Wallace's decision is said to have surprised staff at five schools he ran successfully in east London

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The Independent Online

One of the country's best-known "superheads" has resigned - just months after an investigation was launched into the awarding of IT contracts at his school.

Greg Wallace, once praised by Education Secretary Michael Gove as one of the "Magnificent Seven" superheads running state schools in this country, made his decision to quit known earlier this week.

He had been executive headteacher of five primary schools in Hackney, east London - all of which had made significant improvements following his takeover of them. They joined a federation, Best Start, set up to form an umbrella body to run them.

However, he was suspended by Hackney Council in July this year after an investigation was launched into allegations over the awarding of a computer contract to a firm run by a man with whom he had a close personal relationship - Tony Zangoura, head of C2 Technology.

In addition, power over financial and staffing matters was withdrawn from the Best Start Federation.

It is understood no deal has been reached between Mr Wallace and the Hackney Learning Trust, which runs the borough's schools. Mr Wallace's decision to resign is said to have come as a surprise to staff at the five schools.

Rita Krishna, cabinet member education and children's services, said the Learning Trust's top priority was to ensure that children's education was not disrupted by the decision.

"We will publish the findings of the investigation in due course which will include any relevant disciplinary action over its recommendations," she added.

The former chief executive of the HLT, Steve Beilk, has been appointed to support the federation until the investigation has been concluded. Mr Wallace's resignation comes into effect at the end of December - although he remains suspended until then.

Mr Wallace first made his made after being appointed headteacher of Woodberry Down school in 2001. In a visit to the school last year Mr Gove said that he had had high expectations of the school before seeing it first-hand but these had been "totally surpassed".

All the other four schools in the federation - London Fields. Whitmore, Mandeville and Burbage - made significant improvements after joining the federation. London fields went from being in special measures after failing an inspection by education standards watchdog Ofsted to "outstanding" in three years.

In an emal to staff at the time of Mr Wallace's suspension, Mr Zangoura said he and Mr Wallace were not together in 2009 when the first contract was awarded to the school and accused HLT of "going on a fishing expedition within the schools to find dirt".

Peter Passam, who was chairman of governors at two of the schools in the federation - Woodberry Downs and London fields - when the contract was first awarded said Mr Wallace had always been "open with me about his connection with C2 Technology". He added: "The contract was judged on its value and its quality."

The schools, which had announced plans to convert to academy status, put these on hold after the investigation was announced.

Mr Wallace has been no stranger to controversy since taking over the schools - teachers at Whitmore School walked out in a demonstration against what they described as "unfair treatment" at his hands.

The school said the measures he had taken - increased lesson observation and a teacher workload of more than 50 hours a week - had been necessary to turn the school round.