Controversial superhead Liam Nolan takes the helm at new school

Controversial superhead Liam Nolan takes the helm at new school

A controversial “superhead” who resigned from an academy trust last year after a government probe found significant financial irregularities has been appointed headteacher of a new school.

According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Liam Nolan has signed a one-year contract at the Ruth Gorse Academy in Leeds and will start in September.

He stepped down from the Birmingham-based Perry Beeches Academy Trust in May last year, after the government found the trust had paid £1.3 million to a private firm without following the proper funding rules. That firm, Nexus Ltd, had paid Nolan a second salary of £160,000 over two years, on top of his £120,000 wage as head.

The trust’s governing body also later stood down.

He can “clearly explain where and why the failings happened”.

Schools Week revealed earlier this month that talks over the trust’s future have finally come to a head: ministers are set to approve its closure and hand its five schools to other trusts.

But Nolan’s new job will spark further controversy, and some in the sector are calling for the NCTL misconduct panel, which can ban heads from the classroom, to step in.

Leaders at his new school defended him, saying he had been “humbled” by the experience and can “clearly explain where and why the failings happened”.

In a joint statement seen by Schools Week, Sir John Townsley, executive principal at The Gorse Academy Trust, and Terry Elliot, chair of the governors at the Ruth Gorse Academy, insisted that strict financial procedures are in place at the trust.

“While some may have reservations about the appointment of Liam, we have gone to considerable lengths to explore the nature of the circumstances surrounding his departure from his previous role,” they added.

“Along with Liam, we are able to acknowledge there were failings in the way a number of financial transactions were handled.”

They added that having met with Nolan, his “ability to acknowledge his mistakes has provided him with a fresh take on the management of a school and a new outlook on nurturing pupils during their time at the academy”.

“Liam Nolan remains an exceptional principal, whose ability to drive forward a school while ensuring academic and overall wellbeing and happiness is of the highest levels.

“His leadership of The Ruth Gorse Academy, along with the support of two exceptional vice principals, provide the opportunity to drive The Ruth Gorse Academy forward and to build on the success we have achieved over the past three years.”

The paper also reported that current headteacher Rebekah Taylor will remain at the school as vice-principal.

Schools Week understands that ministerial sign-off to hand four of the Perry Beeches schools over to Core Education Trust, and one to Ark Academy Trust, is imminent.

It was announced yesterday that Perry Beeches’ acting-chief executive Paul Wheeler will stand down at the end of this academic year, while the schools are expected to move over from as soon as September.

According to its website, The Gorse Academies Trust runs eight schools.

Schools Week reported in March that trust had also taken on an 18-month contract to support the Hanson School in Bradford, after the Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) pulled out of sponsoring the school.

It was the second trust to walk away since the school sought a sponsor after being put in special measures in 2011.