The controversial “superhead” who was ousted within 48 hours of being parachuted in to one Croydon primary has now been forced out of his £400,000 per year job in charge of the Gipsy Hill Federation of schools.
Education Uncovered, the subscription-only website, has reported this week that “Sir” Craig Tunstall, the country’s best-paid primary headteacher, has left his position, more than a year after he was suspended on full pay during the course of a fraud inquiry.
Controversially, Croydon Council’s children and education department had invited in the Lambeth-based Gipsy Hill Federation, over-ruling the school’s governors, and replacing Oval’s then headteacher. But Tunstall and his staff walked out of the school within two days, after a hostile reaction from parents, and took their hard-line methods with them.
Parents reacted angrily when Tunstall and his staff’s first actions were to exclude five pupils – one just for not wearing their coat in the playground. Another youngster was excluded from the school when they did not eat their lunch.
Tunstall was knighted in 2014 New Year honours “for services to education”.
Since his brief foray into Croydon, he has seen his salary double as he has taken on the title of chief executive of the federation, while the number of schools in the federation chain grew. Today, Gipsy Hill Federation is in charge of six schools, including Paxton Primary in SE19.
In 2016-2017, public records show that Sir Craig received a total package of £398,214 for running the Gipsy Hill Federation.
According to Education Uncovered, in a letter to parents, dated June 28, 2018 – nearly 14 months after he was first suspended – the federation said: “We are writing to notify you that Sir Craig Tunstall is no longer employed as the chief executive officer of Gipsy Hill Federation.”
A statement from Lambeth council suggested that the departure of Sir Craig had become just a little bit messy: “For legal reasons Lambeth council and the Gipsy Hill Federation will not be giving any further details about this at this time.”
Education Uncovered reports that, “Further information on the reasons for the suspension and any departure terms has not been provided.”
Back in May 2017, the Guardian newspaper had reported that Tunstall “… had been trying to transform the Gipsy Hill federation into academy status…” but, “… has become embroiled in a fraud investigation involving several members of staff. It is unclear whether police have been informed.
“Sarah Wintle, the chair of governors at the federation, said the [suspension of Tunstall] came before an investigation by Lambeth council. ‘While I appreciate that you may be concerned about the content of this letter, I would like to reassure parents that there are no concerns relating to child protection,’ she said.”
Sir Craig’s efforts to get academy status for the Gipsy Hill Federation seem to have failed, since in the most recent letter to parents, the governors wrote, “We would also like to inform you that the federation will not become an academy for the foreseeable future and will remain a group of community schools under local authority control.”
And it also included this intriguing observation: “As a governing body, we have been working…to strengthen the federation’s governance and put in place mechanisms we believe will build on the effective oversight of our schools.”
According to Education Uncovered, Sir Craig received £184,244 in “salary, fees and allowances” in the year to March 31, 2018. “For most of this period, Tunstall was suspended,” they note.
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