BREAKING: Three suspended as academies trust launches ‘misconduct’ investigation

A North London academies trust has suspended three senior managers and launched an investigation into “gross misconduct”.

In a move which Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust (CHAT) chair Andry Efthymiou admitted would come as a shock to parents, executive headteacher Patricia Sowter and Cuckoo Hall headteacher Sharon Ahmet have been suspended along with Phill Sowter, one of the trust’s directors.

In a letter to parents seen by Schools Week, Ms Efthymiou re-assured parents that allegations against the trio had nothing to do with pupil safety or wellbeing.

She said: “I am sorry that this letter will come as a shock but I need to inform you that as of today I have suspended Patricia Sowter, Phill Sowter and Sharon Ahmet.

“This follows allegations of gross misconduct that have been made against them, which need to be investigated. I would like to reassure you that these allegations are in no way related to the safety or wellbeing of pupils.

“I am working with other members of the CHAT management team with Ofsted, the Department for Education (DfE) and the London Borough of Enfield to conduct a full investigation.

“I am also making arrangements for the overall management of CHAT Academies and for Cuckoo Hall Academy while these suspensions are in place. I will let you have details of these arrangements soon.

“As the investigation is now in progress I cannot give you any further information at this time. However, I will keep you updated as and when I am able to do so. In the meantime please be reassured that your child’s teachers will continue to provide the best possible education in a safe and happy environment.”

The trust runs five academies in London. Its largest, Cuckoo Hall in Edmonton, has around 930 on roll and was one of the first primary schools to convert to academy status in 2010. Woodpecker Hall Academy, which occupies new buildings on the Cuckoo Hall side, was opened under the free schools programme in 2011 and has 300 pupils on roll.

It also runs Kingfisher Hall Primary Academy in Enfield Highway, which has 240 pupils and was opened by London Mayor Boris Johnson in 2012, and Enfield Heights Academy, a 75-pupil academy opened by the CfBT SchoolsTrust, which transferred to the trust in September.

Its sole secondary academy, Heron Hall, currently operates on the Cuckoo Hall site in Edmonton with 180 pupils, but will eventually exist as an eight-form academy in new buildings on the former Middlesex University site in Ponders End from September 2015.

A DfE spokesperson said: “This is a matter for the academy trust, who have acted promptly and informed parents of children at the school.

“We will be working very closely with them on their investigation.”