Governor quits over job for controversial head

A Redbridge councillor has resigned as a governor of the King Solomon High in Barkingside following its appointment of one of Britain’s most controversial teachers as head.

Jo Shuter has won awards including Headteacher of the Year during a glittering career, but resigned from her last school — the Quintin Kynaston Academy in St John’s Wood — following an investigation into misuse of funds.
She hoped King Solomon parents and pupils would judge her on her track record of “outstanding education” provision.

But Councillor Alan Weinberg quit the governing body over Ms Shuter’s recruitment, claiming that it was not “the right decision for the school or the good of the pupils.The local education authority is not supporting her appointment.

“When her name was first suggested, I said I had seen what was going on at Quintin Kynaston and I did not think it would be a good move for King Solomon. When it came to the vote earlier this month it was 10 in favour and two against.”

Councillor Weinberg — Redbridge’s cabinet member for children’s services — said the decision had made his position as a governor “untenable”.

During her decade at Quintin Kynaston, Ms Shuter was regarded as a “super head” and was sent as a troubleshooter to help failing schools. She was awarded a CBE in 2010 for services to education. Under her stewardship, the school received outstanding Ofsted inspection results and she was repeatedly praised by Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister.

However, she resigned earlier this year after a Department for Education probe raised a number of concerns about her leadership. The investigation found that she had presided over “extravagant” spending while in charge at Quintin Kynaston, including the use of more than £8,400 of school money to fund non-school travel expenses.

There were also concerns relating to the employment of seven of Ms Shuter’s family members.

She was found to have spent around £7,000 of school money on her 50th birthday party. The money was repaid a year later. There was also substantial expenditure on flowers at the school, and Ms Shuter received around £15,000 in consultancy fees earned during school time.

“I did make some mistakes and I have apologised for them,” Ms Shuter said this week. “I hope they will not detract from my achievements. I want to be defined by my passion for teaching.”

The head — who has described herself as a “cultural, not religious Jew” — claimed it was bashert (predestined) that she would join King Solomon. “I was approached years ago but I did not think my headship was needed. I’m used to turning around failing schools. King Solomon is not a failing school but there are some interesting challenges ahead and I’m really up for that.”

The school needed to retain its “critical Jewish ethos” while “injecting academic rigour and excellence”, added Ms Shuter, who has initially been appointed on an interim basis following the departure of Spencer Lewis to Yavneh College.

KS’s governing body said a “short probationary period” was appropriate for “such a significant appointment”. Governors had “absolute confidence” in her abilities and the prospect of her making the role permanent.

Governors’ chair Stephanie Sollosi said: “Jo Shuter’s track record in achieving outstanding educational results is inspirational. The governors are confident that she will be able to build on the achievements of Mr Lewis and lead us into an exciting and successful new era.”

The school pointed out that its voluntary-aided status meant “a wholly different system of oversight, monitoring and supervision” for financial management compared to academy schools. Ms Shuter would not have the same level of involvement in the school’s finances as she had at Quintin Kynaston.

But Councillor Weinberg maintained that the appointment was misguided. “You don’t expect a teacher at that level to make the mistakes she has admitted to.”

Last updated: 9:45am, July 29 2013