Country’s best-paid primary head Sir Craig Tunstall suspended

The country’s best-paid primary headteacher has been suspended from his post as executive headteacher of the Gipsy Hill Federation of schools in Lambeth.

Sir Craig Tunstall, awarded a knighthood for his services to education in 2014, was paid £330,394 last year – making him one of the country’s best-paid school leaders. The federation runs eight local authority-maintained schools.

The Sun newspaper has reported the suspension relates to allegations of fraud, but the council would only confirm an investigation is ongoing.

Sarah Wintle, chair of governors at the federation, told parents today: “Whilst I appreciate that you may be concerned about the content of this letter, I would like to reassure parents that there are no concerns relating to child protection.

“Further I would like to reassure the school community that the provision of education will not be disrupted in any way.

She said arrangements have been put in place to ensure continuity across the federation, including executive headteachers Susan Holt and Laleh Laverick, with the team of heads, managing the day-to-day running of all schools, with support from the council.

It was reported last year that the federation had been given permission to convert all of its schools into academies. Six of the schools are rated outstanding by Ofsted, with the other two rated good.

The school declined to comment on the conversion progress when approached by Schools Week last year. The federation was also due to open a secondary free school this year, but the opening has been delayed.

A Lambeth Council spokesman said: “We can confirm that the executive headteacher of Gipsy Hill Federation Sir Craig Tunstall has been suspended. Lambeth Council has been supporting the Federation in this matter. It is important to note suspension is a neutral act and is used to protect all parties whilst an investigation continues.”


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    Suspended as neutral act on fraud allegations, I would suggest is normal practice. So why has the federation made a distinct point that the suspension is not related to “child protection”.
    Its a bit like saying someone is under investigation for theft, but it is not related to terrorism. If it has no substance and is not part of the investigation why throw it into the forum?

  2. Mark Watson

    I’m just waiting for comments from Janet Downs, ‘sarah’ and ‘Opal’ – whenever SchoolsWeek does a piece on how much Academy CEOs get paid they always jump right in decrying how academies permit, and indeed encourage, individuals to earn huge amounts of money resulting in public money not being spent on the children.
    Well here we have a situation where (as far as I can tell) the person earning more than any other person in the school sector other than Dan Moynihan, and who is paid by Lambeth Council, seems to be under the spotlight.
    A spotlight, I might add, that has been shone not by SchoolsWeek or indeed any other education media outlet, but by The Sun of all papers.
    So given Sir Craig’s (I wonder how long it will still be Sir Craig) massive salary has nothing to do with academisation (despite SchoolsWeek’s rather obvious and clumsy attempt to link the two – what relevance is it to this story that they may have been given permission to convert to academies at some point in the future?) why should any of us think local authorities are better placed to be the financial guardians of our schools?

    • You’re right that Sir Craig is employed by Lambeth Council.
      What needs investigation is how Sir Craig came to be paid so highly? The answer could be that it was Gipsy Hill Federation which decided Sir Craig’s pay. The Federation, originally Gipsy Hill Trust, was incorporated on 16 September 2014. On 21 July 2016, the Trust submitted accounts for a dormant company for year/ending 30 September 2015. Sir Craig was appointed director on 16 May 2016.
      The accounting year for the Federation has been shortened from 30 September to 31 August presumably to bring it in line with the financial year for academies should the Federation become a multi-academy trust. Companies House say the Federation’s accounts for y/e 31 August 2016 aren’t due at Companies House until 31 May 2017.
      Further questions about:
      (a) when Sir Craig’s pay was increased and how long it remained at such a high level before Lambeth noticed. The accounts might tell us but they are not yet in the public domain.
      (b) whether such Federations (ie non-academy trusts) have to submit accounts to their LA.
      (c) who has official oversight of such Federations and what control, if any, do such overseers have on what is a separate legal entity?

      • Mark Watson

        Oh I’m not disagreeing with you that this needs investigation. In fact I wholeheartedly agree with you.
        However what I’d like your take on is that this situation occurred within a group of schools that are local authority schools. Nothing to do with academies. I don’t think I’m misrepresenting you if I were to say that you’re a strong advocate against academies and in favour of returning schools to direct local authority control. (If I have misrepresented you I apologise).
        So how do you square the situation where local authority schools paid Craig Tunstall such eye-watering sums?
        (And by the way, referring to the limited company called Gipsy Hill Federation is a total red herring. That company didn’t pay one penny towards the £330,000 salary.)

  3. Sarah

    Schools within federations are still individual schools which get a budget share based largely on pupil numbers. As long as governors set a balanced budget financial decisions rest with them not the local authority. Local authorities don’t run school budgets and haven’t done since the 1980s. Federations can sometimes afford to pay Executive Heads more because they employ lower paid heads of schools in each of the schools rather than full head teachers. It may be that the Exec Head has earned money for providing school improvement support beyond the federation rather than just the Exec head role. None of which makes such sums right whether it be academies or not. Sadly the whole move towards a market driven education system is driving this. If academy heads can earn very high salaries other schools have to follow suit if they want to attract high calibrate leaders. Sad and doing nothing whatsoever to drive up standards!

    • Mark Watson

      Ahhhh, the good old lemmings argument.
      Q: Why did you jump off the cliff?
      A: Because the lemming in front of me did.
      So you appear to be blaming the fact that some (note that’s some, certainly not all) academies pay their CEOs substantial salaries as the reason why the Gipsy Hill Federation paid Craig Tunstall £330,000. Is that really what you think?
      Let’s just look at this a little more closely:
      The Gipsy Hill Federation set a salary level that wasn’t ‘competitive’ with other high-paid CEOs. It set it at a level that dwarfed every single CEO’s salary in the country bar one. The second highest paid CEO was Ian Comfort of AET. He was paid £236,000. Craig Tunstall’s salary was 40% higher than Ian Comfort’s. In fact, looking at SchoolsWeek’s latest story on CEO pay there are only eight CEOs in the country who are paid more than 50% of Craig Tunstall’s salary.
      There is no plausible way anyone considering these figures could say that the Gipsy Hill Federation was “following suit” as you put it.