A superhead who was banned from teaching for life over her expenses can now return to the classroom after a government disciplinary panel ruled that a prohibition order against her be set aside.
Jo Shuter was banned for life in 2014 after a misconduct hearing into expenses claimed at London’s Quintin Kynaston School, but was allowed to appeal the order after two years following a decision to reverse the lifetime nature of the prohibition in November 2014.
Schools Week can reveal that Shuter’s appeal has been upheld by a panel of the Department for Education’s National College for Teaching and Leadership.
The panel decided that the prohibition order should be set aside
The government confirmed that, after considering further evidence including findings from the original panel, third-party references and evidence from Shuter herself, the NCTL panel decided the prohibition order “should be set aside”.
The decision means Shuter, a former headteacher of the year once named as Tony Blair’s favourite head, is now technically allowed to teach and hold school leadership positions again. It is not known if she has any specific plans to return to the profession.
Her case has drawn attention to fears about a lack of financial expertise among school leaders, as well as a grey area about which roles fall under the NCTL’s disciplinary process.
Shuter was given the lifetime ban in May 2014 after she admitted claiming around £7,000 from the Quintin Kynaston for her 50th birthday party and charging the school for furniture worth £1,500 delivered to her home.
Speaking after a government investigation had revealed the expenses several years ago, Shuter told the London Evening Standard she was sorry and had made “really stupid mistakes”.
“Nobody ever spelled out my financial responsibilities. When I was interviewed for the job in 2001 I told the governors that financial management was not my strength. The nature of headship has changed and now requires a thorough understanding of financial and HR management systems.”
Sir Bruce Liddington, resigned as director general from the E-ACT academy chain in April 2013 shortly before a government investigation found a “culture of extravagant expenses” at the trust. He previously told Schools Week it was “all too rare that executive heads or chief executives have working job and person specifications”.
The government has also confirmed that academy chief executives do not fall under the NCTL’s disciplinary remit, and that it is up to schools to decide whether banned teachers can work as academy chief executives.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said last year that this was “an anomaly and perhaps one for chief executives themselves to reflect on”.
“Are they frontline educational leaders or middle tier administrators? If the former, then perhaps they should welcome being regulated in the same way as other front line professionals – it would set a clear marker on their standing and status.”
It follows a decision by the High Court to overturn a two-year prohibition given to Greg Wallace, another superhead who was banned last June over allegations of financial misconduct following an investigation into an IT contracts scandal.
The court found the public interest in Wallace remaining in work outweighed the government’s argument that his behaviour amounted to unacceptable professional conduct, and criticised the “intrusive” sanction imposed by the DfE.