CEO leaves trust 12 months after whistleblower probe

A trust chief executive who threatened to “deal with” a whistleblower has left his post, more than a year after the launch of an investigation into his comments.

Victoria Academies Trust (VAT) said it had agreed to terminate the contract of Andrew Morrish as it was the “most efficient use of resources and time” that would have been spent on “subsequent proceedings”.

The trust thanks Andrew Morrish for his 14 years’ service and his role in establishing the trust

Morrish was suspended after Schools Week revealed that he told staff in February last year he “flicked away” safeguarding complaints made by a whistleblower at Birchen Coppice Primary Academy in Kidderminster.

He had also threatened to uncover and “deal with” the anonymous whistleblower who he said had behaved in a “treacherous”, “underhand” and “pathetic” way.

Morrish was suspended and an independent investigation launched.

The trust said this week the former chief executive had resigned, with effect from December 31 last year.

A statement from Gurinder Josan, the chair of trustees at VAT, said: “The trust has agreed to a termination of Andrew Morrish’s employment by mutual agreement because it will be the most efficient use of resources and time that would otherwise be expended on the continuance of any subsequent proceedings. In doing so, the trust confirms a payment in lieu of notice has been made to the CEO.

“The trust thanks Andrew Morrish for his 14 years’ service and his role in establishing the trust, and the work that has been done to improve the life chances of the children in our schools.”

VAT would not reveal details of the payment. The former chief executive had been suspended on full pay.

Morrish did not respond to a request for comment. He tweeted last week he was “moving on to pastures new”, adding: “It’s been a pleasure being part of such a great journey, but new challenges await. Thank you to all of you who have supported and encouraged me over the years.”

He is now listed as an associate of the Forum Strategy, a membership organisation for academy trust chief executives.

Morrish founded VAT in January 2014. He had been executive headteacher of two of its eight primary schools.

Schools Week reported last year that Morrish had spoken to staff at Birchen Coppice after an employee wrote to Ofsted raising issues of safeguarding, trust expenditure and treatment of staff.

While reading out excerpts of the letter, Morrish told staff that he had narrowed the whistleblower down to “around 14 people”, adding: “Even though it’s got ‘anonymous’, I am determined to find out who is behind it. And whoever is behind it, I’ll deal with.”

The trust’s whistleblowing policy says staff “must not threaten or retaliate against whistleblowers in any way”. Anyone who did “will be subject to disciplinary action”.

VAT said Morrish was “subject of an independent investigation and disciplinary hearing during which he was suspended as a neutral act”. It did not state the outcome of the investigation.

Annual accounts published this year said that Charlotte Davis, its former executive headteacher, stepped down in August following an investigation.

Schools Week understands that some of the whistleblower’s complaints related to Davis. The trust would not comment further, and the accounts said she was given three months’ pay. No disciplinary action was taken.

When contacted for comment, Davis insisted she left the trust for health reasons and was not aware of an investigation.

VAT said this week it had received three anonymous complaints in 2019. These were “fully investigated by the trust and found to be without foundation”.

It said Ofsted and the Education and Skills Funding Agency were said to be “entirely satisfied” with the trust’s response.