A so-called “superhead” who was praised by the Education Secretary Michael Gove and runs five primary schools has been suspended, it can be revealed.
Greg Wallace has been forced to stand down as head of the five primary schools in Hackney, east London, while allegations are investigated over the awarding of a computer contract to a firm run by a man with whom he has a close personal relationship. The schools' governing body has also had its powers over financial and staffing matters removed.
The decision to suspend him and dis-empower the governing body – whose members include Henry de Zoete, one of Mr Gove’s special advisers – is the latest in a series of financial controversies surrounding the superheads.
These include a headteacher knighted for his services to education, Sir Alan Davies, former head of Copland Community School in Wembley, north London, who is going on trial next month where he denies conspiring to defraud his school.
Hackney Council moved to suspend Mr Wallace and limit the governors' powers after launching an investigation into the running of the school last April. A statement on the website of the Best Start Federation, which runs the schools, said: “We understand the HLT [Hackney Learning Trust – which runs education services for the council] has concerns about the computer contracts and Greg Wallace’s relationship with the provider C2 Technology.”
Peter Passam, who was chairman of governors at two of the schools in the federation – Woodberry Down 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.”
Mr Gove has often lavished praise on Mr Wallace and the schools in speeches made as Education Secretary. On a visit to Woodberry Down last year he said he had had high expectations of the school before his visit and they had been “totally surpassed”.
All the other four schools have seen significant improvements since joining the federation – London Fields going from special measures after failing its Ofsted report to outstanding in three years.
In an email to staff Tony Zangoura, head of C2 Technology, said he and Mr Wallace were not together in 2009 when the first contract was awarded to the firm and accused HLT of “going on a fishing expedition within the schools to find dirt”.
The schools, which had announced their intention of converting to academy status in May, but had to put the plan on hold once the investigation was launched in April, have appealed to Mr Gove to intervene in the case.
“While no system ever operates perfectly, we refute entirely that there was lack of governance or worse, malfeasance, by this governing body,” they said.
A spokesman for Hackney Council said: “The council has withdrawn financial and staffing powers from the governing body as part of an ongoing investigation.” It declined to elaborate on the reasons for the decision.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said it had received a letter from the body, adding: “We will consider this in due course.”
Must do better: Controversial heads
Sir Bruce Liddington, a former “superhead” who became Schools Commissioner under Labour, had to quit as director-general of the E-ACT academies chain after being condemned it for lunches at London’s Reform Club.
Jo Shuter, headteacher of the year in 2007 and awarded a CBE in 2010, quit her job as head of Quinton Kynaston school in London’s St John’s Wood, after she spent school money on personal taxis, flowers and staff refreshments.
Richard Gilliland quit as executive head of four schools run by the Priory federation in Lincoln and Grantham after auditors found extraordinary purchases, including sex aids, had been delivered to the schools’ office.
Dame Jean Else, head of Whalley Range High School for Girls in Manchester, was found guilty of financial irregularities – including employing her twin sister.