'These kinds of actions can never be tolerated' - says Sunderland school where 'dishonest' head wasted cash on booze and dog food

The chair of governors at a school where a disgraced headteacher spent vital funds on booze and dog food insists "these kinds of actions can never be tolerated".

Friday, 25th January 2019, 1:24 pm
Updated Friday, 25th January 2019, 1:29 pm
Coun Paul Stewart, left, is chair of governors at Willow Fields Community Primary School, in Witherwack, Sunderland, where disgraced head Jonathan Twidle resigned in 2016.

Councillor Paul Stewart was speaking after former Sunderland head Jonathan Twidle was branded "dishonest" by a national disciplinary panel and banned from the profession for life.

A 23-page document last this week outlined how Twidle "engaged in financial mismanagement" by using his school's credit card to pay for hotels, petrol, restaurants, travel fares, alcohol, household groceries and dog food.

Willow Fields Community Primary School, in Witherwack, Sunderland.

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He was also found guilty of using school cash to fund his child’s private health care and showing favouritism towards his wife, who was not fully named in the report, by allowing her to be absent from her role at the school while they visited their child’s new school together.

An additional allegation - that he used a school phone during his previous headship to pay for adult entertainment services - was also proven during the three-day Teaching Regulation Agency hearing.

Twidle, now 53, resigned from this first post at Crooksbarn Primary School, in Stockton, in May 2009 after an audit into financial regularities.

He was employed as head at Willow Fields Community Primary School, in Witherwack, in September 2011 before resigning in September 2016 after a similar investigation was carried out by Sunderland City Council

The council and Coun Stewart, who has been a governor at the school for around 30 years, have been approached for comment as to exactly what the school knew about Twidle's background when he was appointed.

In a prepared statement, Coun Stewart, who was appointed chair in 2013, has so far said: “As a governing body we are appreciative of the support we have received in this matter.

“These kinds of actions can never be tolerated and what matters most is that our school remains fully focused on supporting pupils in their education so that they may develop and fulfil their potential.”

The panel examined Willow Fields's two Ofsted inspection reports during Twidle's period in charge.

The first in 2013 saw the school slip from a good rating to requiring improvement before rising back to good in 2015.

The second report said: "The headteacher, ably supported by the senior leadership team, is highly ambitious and determined to continue to further raise the attainment of pupils and improve their well being."

The panel, however, concluded that "the public interest considerations outweigh the interests of Mr Twidle" and its recommendation that he should be barred indefinitely has been rubberstamped by the Department for Education.

The ban does not allow for a review owing to "the dishonesty found, the lack of integrity found and the lack of full insight or remorse".

Mr Twidle, who is believed to live in Stockton, can still lodge an appeal with the High Court by the start of February.