School trustees ignored Charity Commission direction

Inquiry into governance at St Peter's Independent School

The trustees of a charitable independent school ignored a Charity Commission direction to make sure its headmaster had no unsupervised contact with its pupils following allegations that he had physically harmed some of them, according to a commission inquiry report.

The regulator opened a formal inquiry in September into St Peter's Independent School in Northamptonshire, which was registered as a charity in 1981, after its trustees failed to demonstrate that they had "responded appropriately" to the allegations. The commission said some of the information supplied by the trustees about the role of the headmaster, who was later cleared of the charges, had also been misleading, although not deliberately so.

There were also complaints of falling educational and welfare standards at the school, which has 120 pupils aged between four and 18, and annual fees of between £3,600 and £4,100.

The inquiry found that the school's trustees ignored advice to temporarily suspend the headmaster because they regarded the allegations, which were being investigated by the police, as unfounded and malicious. They also ignored a commission direction to make sure his access to children was supervised when he returned to the school as a consultant last September following his retirement as headmaster at the end of the 2007/08 academic year.

However, the inquiry report says there was subsequently a "marked and positive change in the attitude of the trustees", who are now "fully cooperative with the commission". They prevailed on the headmaster to leave the school later in September and have accepted a commission direction to hold a comprehensive governance review within six months of the closure of the inquiry in February.

Since the inquiry closed, the Crown Prosecution Service has decided not to bring any charges against the headmaster.

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