Teacher given OBE last year guilty of misconduct over £180k bonuses

But former deputy head avoids ban as case dragged on for 'extremely long time'

But former deputy head avoids ban as case dragged on for 'extremely long time'

A maths teacher awarded an OBE last year for fundraising during Covid has been found guilty of misconduct over “improper” bonuses of almost £180,000.

But Dr Richard Evans has avoided a ban from the profession, with the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) citing a “considerable delay” in the ruling, which relates to allegations more than 15 years ago.

The then deputy head of Copland Community School in Wembley, west London, Evans was suspended and sacked in 2009. He was one of four ex-staffers, including headteacher Alan Davies, and two governors, accused of defrauding the school to the tune of £2.7 million in bonuses.

Five of the so-called “Copland Six” were acquitted of conspiracy to defraud in 2013. Davies pleaded guilty to six counts of false accounting.

But in 2018, the High Court ruled that four, including Evans, had knowingly taken unlawful, unjustified overpayments.

Evans received £600,000 in salary increases and one-off payments in the period. He was found for around £250,000 and ordered to pay back £46,000 with the remainder statute-barred.

Payments to teacher were ‘unacceptable’

A TRA hearing, published on Tuesday, found the payments amounted to “unacceptable professional conduct”. His actions were also deemed “unconscionable and lacked integrity”.

The TRA said 10 payments totalling at least £179,000 were “an improper use of school funds” and non-compliant with the ‘school teachers’ pay and conditions document’.

After a hearing in May, the panel was “satisfied” that Evans’ conduct “did amount to misconduct of a serious nature which fell significantly short of the standards expected of the profession”.

Evans, a former education adviser to David Cameron, was a “senior and experienced practitioner” and “role model”.

The “average member of the public would be shocked and troubled by the nature and extent of the payments”.

“Dr Evans must have been aware of the risk that every one of these payments, from public funds designated for the school, which was located in an area of socio-economic depravation, could not be justified.”

‘Considerable delay’ to proceedings

The panel was also critical that he was “still of a mindset… that his actions were defendable”.

But the panel noted Evans had “demonstrated exceptionally high standards in both personal and professional conduct both prior to and since these events”. He continued to work in education.

The panel admitted the proceedings “have been ongoing for an extremely long time”. The risk this posed to his teaching career “will have weighed heavily upon him”.

The “considerable delay” was due to other proceedings. However, the TRA did not respond to a request for comment about why it took five years since the High Court ruling to deliver its verdict.

Schools Week investigation in 2021 revealed the regulator missed its internal targets for completing cases involving hearings within a year. It took 66 weeks in 2020-21, but this ballooned to 85 weeks last year

This was blamed on a Covid-induced backlog, postponed hearings and misconduct panellist capacity. 

Teacher given OBE for charity work

The panel in the Evans case also said the “entire ethos” of Copland relating to bonuses “went badly awry and Dr Evans was one of a number of people who got caught up in all that went on”. The chance of repetition was “extremely low”.

Alan Meyrick, ruling on behalf of the education secretary, agreed with the panel, saying publication of the findings “would be sufficient to send an appropriate message to the teacher as to the standards of behaviour that were not acceptable”.

Evans received an OBE for services to charitable fundraising during Covid. He ran the London Marathon for charity after surviving a heart attack. He was treated at the Royal Free Hospital, to which he had delivered food parcels for frontline staff just days before.

He laid the blame for the heart attack at the door of his ex-employer, the London borough of Brent, over it pursuing the fraud case.

Evans maintained he had no idea he was being overpaid. He believed the payments had been approved by the local authority.

‘Reasonable person would have questioned payments’

The High Court judge had accepted Evans probably had not thought the payments were unlawful. But the judge found the payments to be “unconscionable” and said a “reasonable person” in Evans’s position would have questioned them.

Guidance states honours can be “forfeited” for reasons that include “behaviour which results in censure by a regulatory or a professional body, or any other behaviour that is deemed to bring the honours system into disrepute”. This can be based on events that pre-date awards.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said it would be “inappropriate to comment” on individual cases.

Evans said “the money I received was honestly earned for work fully done. It was properly paid as salary by my local authority/employer and correctly declared to HMRC”.

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