Nardeep Sharma – the former head of the academy trust that ran the Colne Community School & College – has been banned from running schools by the Secretary of State for Education for financial misconduct.
A prohibition direction released by the Department for Education said that Sharma – the former CEO of the Thrive Trust – had engaged in "conduct that is so inappropriate that, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, it makes a person unsuitable to take part in the management of an independent school" and goes on " ...that because of this he is unsuitable to take part in the management of an independent school (including an academy or Free School). The direction also has the effect of disqualifying the person from being a governor at a maintained school".
The direction added; "In his role as the Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sharma has allowed and / or permitted breaches of the Academies Financial Handbook and has engaged in conduct that breaches the Seven principles of public life (Nolan principles), in particular the requirement of public office-holders to act with integrity and honesty. In the opinion of the Secretary of State this makes Mr Sharma unsuitable to take part in the management of an independent school."
Sharma was suspended from his £130,000 CEO role in March 2008, along with Thrive Trust executive principal Catherine Hutley - now working as assistant director of education at Essex County Council. A subsequent investigation by the Education & Skills Funding Agency found:
- Severance payments had been made to staff without school governors' approval
- Contracts were awarded to a business with family ties to trust directors and which provided the highest of three quotes
- Breaches of purchasing rules
- Loans applied for without the knowledge of other trustees
- "irregular expenditure" concerning gift hampers sent to former trustees and the former chair of the Colne's governing body
- Alcohol charged to hotel rooms.
The prohibition direction was issued on September 9 and Sharma has the right to appeal. Brightlingsea Info has contacted him for a comment. The Colne Community School & College is now run by the Sigma Trust.
• Read the prohibition direction here.