DfE policy adviser leaves trust amid finance investigation

A chief executive and operations manager at an academy trust have left their posts amid an internal investigation over a budget black hole supposedly totalling several hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Tom Quinn, chief executive at Holy Family Catholic Multi-Academy Trust, left his post last week, alongside operations director Sally Mitchell.

Quinn is a member of the secondary headteacher reference group, a select group of “leading headteachers” that advise and influence the Department for Education’s policy development.

A statement from the Diocese of Shrewsbury, which founded the Wirral-based trust, said Quinn and Mitchell left “with the mutual consent of the trustee directors” on Thursday. Quinn also served as executive headteacher at the Holy Family’s St John Plessington Catholic College. The school’s chair of governors, John Williams, has also resigned.

Schools Week understands that an internal financial investigation is ongoing surrounding potentially several hundreds of thousands of pounds of cash missing from the trust’s budget. The trust would not comment on this allegation.

Quinn and Mitchell are also respectively interim chief executive and interim chief finance officer at Frank Field Education Trust. The trust did not respond to requests for comment about whether this is still the case. (see update below)

According to the Frank Field Education Trust website, Quinn is a national leader of education, and previously served as a co-opted member of the headteacher board for Lancashire and West Yorkshire region.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Shrewsbury said Quinn, Mitchell and Williams “have given many years of service to the school and the diocese would like to take this opportunity to wish them well for the future”.

“Pupils, parents and staff can be assured that the stability and success of St John Plessington Catholic College is uppermost in the minds of trustee directors, governors and the diocese and all involved with the oversight of the school and the arrangements which are being put into place will ensure this.”

He added that a newly appointed chief finance officer, Ian Potts, will oversee financial management of all schools in the trust.

 

 

Update, Thursday, April 25th: The Frank Field Education Trust confirmed today that Quinn has now become its full time chief executive, and insisted he had resigned from his post at the Holy Family trust this morning.

Frank Field told Schools Week that he was “overjoyed” that Quinn would now be in the role full time, and described him as “one of the best headmasters in the country.”

When questioned about the Holy Family’s ongoing investigation, Field added: “As things unfold, we must try and understand why people have tried to bring down one of our great headmasters. The most important thing for me is to bind myself with Tom. I have never ever doubted his qualities, his brilliance in teaching, his honesty.

“At stages in the future, people will have to account for their actions. I’m willing to answer for mine.”

A spokesperson for the diocese said Quinn’s departure was agreed by mutual consent on April 18 with the agreement of the Association of School and College Leaders, with the final legal agreements due to be signed today. Instead, Quinn said he “wished to resign with immediate effect”.

“We wish Mr Quinn every success in his new position with the Frank Field Education Trust,” the spokesperson added.