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‘Superhead’ Jo Shuter can return to the classroom as life ban is lifted

Verdict of ‘unacceptable professional misconduct’ overturned in light of new testimony

08 February, 2017 — By William McLennan

Jo Shuter: ‘I’ve got a passion for teaching’

A “SUPERHEAD” who was banned from teaching for life after admitting that she misused school funds while at the helm of a Swiss Cottage academy has been given the go-ahead to make a return to the classroom.

Jo Shuter, who spent more than 10 years in charge of Quintin Kynaston Community Academy, was struck off in 2014 after an investigation into financial irregularities found her guilty of “unacceptable professional misconduct”.

The 56-year-old, who was awarded a CBE in 2010 for services to education, had been told she would never teach again, but the ban was overturned last week.

Ms Shuter told the New Journal that she was uncertain if she would return to frontline teaching, adding: “I’ve got a passion for teaching, I always have. It’s something that absolutely drives me. It’s what I’ve always believed in, what I still absolutely love. But I don’t know what to do with that passion at the moment. I’m still a little bit jaded by everything that happened.”

It is the latest twist in a saga that first came to the public’s attention with Ms Shuter’s suspension in September 2012, which followed a whistleblower’s allegations of misuse of public money.

Three separate investigations followed, with first the school’s governors, then auditors KPMG and finally the government’s Education Funding Agency poring over school accounts. They found that Ms Shuter had inappropriately used school bank accounts to pay for, among other things, thousands of pounds of personal taxi trips – including visits to top West End restaurants the Ivy and Wolseley – and a luxury hotel stay for senior staff costing £8,000.

Other misuses considered by panel at the time included:
– mobile phone bills for herself, her son and her daughter;
– delivery of £1,500 worth of furniture to her home;
– a 50th birthday party, totalling £7,000
– use of her personal assistant, paid for by the school, to organise her private consultancy work and bookings of her Turkish holiday villa.

A subsequent misconduct hearing led Ms Shuter to be issued a life-long “prohibition order”, with no right to appeal. As she prepared to challenge the ruling at the High Court in November 2014, the Department for Education (DfE) changed its position and agreed that she could apply to have the order “set aside” after serving a ban of two years.

The DfE said at the time that a life-time ban was “not a proportionate sanction, given… the fact that dishonesty was not pleaded against Ms Shuter”. The ban was formally overturned this week after the National College for Teaching and Learning (NCTL) met in November to re-consider the original evidence and fresh testimony from Ms Shuter.

“The prohibition order has been lifted with a finding, yet again, of no dishonesty, no intention,” Ms Shuter said. “The most important thing for me is there was no dishonesty, ever.” Ms Shuter had been credited with turning around the fortunes of the school, which became one of the first to be freed from the control of the council.

She regularly appeared in the media at the time and QK became a favoured example of New Labour’s education policy, with then-prime minister Tony Blair famously announcing his resignation during a playground photoshoot in 2006.

A DfE spokesman this week confirmed the ban would be “set aside”. The full text of the decision has yet to be made public. When the ban was issued in 2014, the NCTL panel said a life-time ban was appropriate, in part, because Ms Shuter’s “high profile increases the risk of public confidence in the profession being undermined”.

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