Superhead resigns amidst school contracts controversy

Greg Wallace.

Greg Wallace. Pic: Evening Standard

One of the nation’s best-known ‘super-heads,’ who oversaw five Hackney primary schools, has resigned midway through an investigation into his alleged awarding of IT contracts to his boyfriend’s company.

Greg Wallace was suspended on full pay in July, after allegations that he had hired his boyfriend Tony Zangoura, a director of C2 Technology, to supply computers to the five primary schools Wallace headed in 2009.

Wallace’s resignation has come as a shock to Hackney staff and parents because the council’s investigation was not due to finish until the end of the year.

Wallace was the Executive Principal of Best Start Federation (BSF), the governing body for the Hackney primary schools of London Fields, Burbage, Mandeville, Whitemore and Woodberry Down.

Since Wallace’s suspension, the council have withdrawn the financial and staffing powers of the Best Start Federation (BSF), and the Learning Trust has regained authority of the schools.

Once described by Education Minister, Michael Gove, as one of his “magnificent seven” head teachers, the Coalition Government has commended Wallace for improving a number of special measures schools in Hackney.

When Wallace was first suspended in July, the BSF issued a statement saying that the super-head was “always open” about his link with C2 Technology and “the contract was judged on its value and its quality.”

But not all members of the BSF were aware of Wallace’s close connection with Tony Zangoura when the IT contracts were secured.

At the time, Jane Kemsley, the acting vice chair of BSF governors said: “The whole governing body was not aware of the relationship and that’s where there is concern from the council.”

The council’s investigation was also triggered by BSF’s refusal to respond to the Hackney Nation Union of Teachers’ Freedom of Information requests for information about their contract procedures.

Since the council’s investigation, a number of questions have been raised about computer contracts and other possible misuses of money.

Mick Regan, ex-Secretary of Hackney NUT, said: “During the past few weeks staff and ex-staff have used the Council’s Whistle Blowing procedures to highlight other things that have been taking place inside the Best Start Federation.”

He continued: “We believed that how the computer contracts were awarded were the major issue, but we understand that other issues have come to light during the investigation relating to other financial matters, this is public money that needs to be accounted for.”

Hackney council has said its Wallace investigation will continue regardless of his resignation and will be completed by the end of the year.

Councillor Rita Krishna, the cabinet member for education and children’s services, said: “We will publish the findings of the investigation in due course which will include any relevant disciplinary action in its recommendations.”

Following his official letter of resignation on Tuesday, Wallace issued a public statement on Thursday. He said:

“I leave feeling very proud of what we all did to transform the educational experience in these schools…I hope that, under the new leadership from Hackney council, the three schools already judged as outstanding retain that status and the other two attain it as quickly as possible.”

Wallace gained his super-head status after he transformed Woodberry Down from special measures to “outstanding” in 2001. Soon afterward, he was recruited to improve four other under-performing schools in Hackney.

Wallace remains popular with parents. When asked about his resignation, Jasmine Mohammed, the mother of a child at London Fields, said: “I only just received the letter announcing his resignation. I thought he did a lot of good for the school so this news comes as a shame to me.”

Parents launched a petition for his reinstatement in September, which gained approximately 600 signatures.

Regan said: “This petition is not as substantial as it first appears when you consider that he is in charge of five schools, each with approximately 50 staff and over 500 pupils.”

When asked about why Wallace had gained so much support from parents, Matthew Waterfall, Hackney Unison Branch Secretary, said: “Reasonably enough, parents hero-worshiped him because they want their kids to do the best but that does not mean he is above scrutiny.”

Waterfall added: “The resignation should not be the end of the matter; the investigation needs to continue and come to a conclusion, and if it does conclude that wrongdoing has occurred then Wallace must be held accountable like the rest of us.”

Wallace’s resignation will not come into effect until the end of December, but he will remain suspended until then. Steve Beilk, the former executive of the Learning Trust has been appointed to oversee the BSF until the investigation is complete.

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