'Fantastic' headteacher embroiled in scandal

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The Independent Online

Until he became engulfed in the cash-for-peerages scandal, Des Smith was largely unknown on the national education stage.

Mr Smith, 60, was a well-regarded headteacher of a successful east London comprehensive, who had been credited with turning the school around during more than two decades at the helm.

As head of the All Saints Catholic School and Technology College in Barking and Dagenham, his "clear and focused" leadership was praised by Ofsted. He also joined the ranks of heads who are called upon by the Department for Education and Skills to give their backing when new policies are announced.

But, as a respected head, Mr Smith was also involved in the wider education world. His school had been one of the first in the country to achieve specialist status under a programme that later became a flagship Labour policy.

Mr Smith was also one of a dozen headteachers invited to sit on the council of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust. That led to him working as a consultant to SSAT chairman Sir Cyril Taylor, when its role was expanded to cover privately sponsored academies.

His local MP, Labour's John Cruddas, who knows Mr Smith well, said the headteacher should be judged on his "21 years as a significant local public servant" rather than a few minutes of loose talk in a pub.

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