Schools

Secret settlement in £370k superhead’s legal row with council

Six-year saga ended with confidential agreement - leaving community in the dark

Six-year saga ended with confidential agreement - leaving community in the dark

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A teacher who earned £367,000 a year has agreed a secret settlement with a council to end a legal row about his controversial dismissal – leaving the community “not knowing what really happened” after a six-year saga.

Sir Craig Tunstall, formerly England’s best-paid primary headteacher, was dismissed from the council-maintained Gipsy Hill Federation in 2018 for “gross misconduct”. 

Lambeth Council refused to reveal an investigation report into the case. But Tunstall launched a high court case against Lambeth and the federation for damages of more than £200,000 over claims of negligence and breach of contract. 

But the local authority launched a counterclaim attempting to recover damages of potentially £500,000 from Tunstall.

Documents submitted to the court alleged Tunstall received unauthorised additional salary payments of nearly £300,000 that plunged the federation into deficit.

It was alleged the former head “caused or permitted” the council to pay him the additional salary without the approval of the governing body.

Tunstall’s representatives previously said no allegations of fraud or dishonesty are made against him and that it is not alleged that he was aware he was receiving unauthorised payments.

A judge was due to hold a trial on the case later this year, but a court order this month confirmed the case had been settled. 

Council tightlipped on legal fee spend

An authority spokesperson said the details of the settlement, “which resolves” both Tunstall’s and the council’s claims, “are confidential to both parties”. 

The council did not answer questions on how much it had spent on legal fees this week.

The Liberal Democrat councillor Matthew Bryant, deputy opposition leader in Lambeth, said the settlement “leaves numerous questions unanswered, particularly about the governance arrangements in the council at the time”. 

“Ultimately Lambeth council taxpayers may never know how much this has cost them.”

George Turner, who helped found investigative think tank TaxWatch and has reported on Tunstall’s pay previously, said: “Many people who were part of the community are now not allowed to understand what really happened in their own school. 

“No matter what happened, that in itself, is pretty outrageous.” 

Tunstall did not respond to a request for comment.

A close friend of Tunstall said “no amount of money will give him back his health, career or reputation” after “six long years of him fighting for the truth and fairness”. 

“It’s particularly appalling how silencing people through these settlement agreements is allowed, which is why he isn’t able to say anything himself.”

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5 Comments

  1. Craig Tunstall

    Gagged but Taylor Swift (Reputation) said it well:

    I don’t like your little games
    Don’t like your tilted stage
    The role you made me play of the fool
    No, I don’t like you
    I don’t like your perfect crime
    How you laugh when you lie
    You said the gun was mine
    Isn’t cool, no, I don’t like you (oh!)
    But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time
    Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time
    I got a list of names, and yours is in red, underlined
    I check it once, then I check it twice, oh!

    Ooh, look what you made me do
    Look what you made me do
    Look what you just made me do
    Look what you just made me…
    Ooh, look what you made me do
    Look what you made me do
    Look what you just made me do

    Look what you just made me do
    I (I) don’t (don’t) like your kingdom keys (keys)
    They (they) once belonged to me (me)
    You (you) asked me for a place to sleep
    Locked me out and threw a feast (what?)

    The world moves on, another day another drama, drama
    But not for me, not for me, all I think about is karma
    And then the world moves on, but one thing’s for sure
    Maybe I got mine, but you’ll all get yours

    But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time (nick of time)
    Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time (I do it all the time)
    I got a list of names, and yours is in red, underlined
    I check it once, then I check it twice, oh!

  2. Veronica Walker

    It would be interesting to know how many settlement agreements are used by MATS with their teaching staff. Is this what is driving the problem with staff recruitment and retention because there is a toxic culture of control and how can this be a justified use of public funds. It is a concern that it’s an easy option for those in control to use public money to silence an individual when perhaps the employer themselves are also guilty of gross misconduct. Where’s the accountability? There are very few cases that are pursued to Tribunal because of the sheer stress that this puts on an individual, but for those that do and the employers conduct is exposed I would ask ‘ should some of the individuals be in charge of our children’s education? How many teachers lives have been destroyed and the reasons kept silent because a settlement agreement allows them to press eject and the public will never know how their employer has behaved. Shouldn’t these agreements alert the Department of Education that the conduct of a MAT should be flagged particularly as they use public funds and therefore should be held accountable.

      • Simon Chesters

        Interesting that this all came to light just as Tunstall/GHF tried to force through Academy status, to great opposition from parents.

        I think the last part of the article from an anonymous friend lets him off the hook. This was a serious fraud investigation into the highest paid head in the country.

    • Craig Tunstall

      1000000% agree. I’d welcome such scrutiny as nothing to hide. I can’t comment on the circumstances of my case or settlement, but prior to that I know the use of it was widespread. I don’t think the issue is about federations or MATs, it’s just about transparency and fairness.