Suspended Hackney “superhead” spent his last days in post exposing his bosses’ lavish spending

Greg Wallace, executive principal of the Best Start Federation

Greg Wallace, executive principal of the Best Start Federation - Credit: google

The suspended “superhead” Greg Wallace spent his final weeks paid by Hackney Council exposing his bosses’ extravagant spending on “away days” at a luxurious private members’ club and long-distance trips to Arizona and Canada.

Mr Wallace submitted the Freedom of Information (FOI) requests about the Learning Trust’s spending through the What Do They Know website in September, two months after he was suspended from his post of executive head of five Hackney schools.

People can receive FOI responses in full public view on the website.

He wanted to know how much “away days” for the board of directors at The Learning Trust had cost, as well as the cost of foreign study trips laid on for head teachers.

The council’s response revealed that between 2004 and 2010 the board’s annual two-day “strategy reviews” included overnight stays in exclusive venues like The Royal Automobile Club’s Woodcote Park stately home, luxury four-star bolthole Selsdon Park Hotel and Golf Club, and country retreat Wotton House.

With each seminar costing between £4,100 and £7,100 for an average of 20 employees, questions have been raised as to why the meetings could not have been held on council property.

In 2011 because of “strict financial constraints” on the public sector, the decision was made to hold one-day sessions at UBS, a suggestion made by chairman of the board Mr Richard Hardie, who is also a chairman at UBS.

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It has also come to light that in 2006 the Trust, which was a private company, paid for 16 headteachers to travel to Ontario, Canada for nine days for training. Two years later another 16 head teachers spent nine days in Tucson, Arizona, with both trips incurring costs of £43,050.

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, a campaign group for lower taxes, said: “It’s astounding that the Trust thought it reasonable to waste taxpayers’ money on these expensive away days and foreign jaunts.

“Rather than swanning off on these expensive trips the trust should have focused on its job in Hackney.

“There’s no reason why these away days couldn’t have taken place on council property rather that the costly surroundings chiefs chose instead.”

Mr Wallace – once described as one of education secretary’s Michael Gove’s “magnificent seven” – was suspended while the council investigated claims about financial irregularity and the awarding of lucrative computer contracts.

Mr Wallace, who was once described as one of education secretary’s Michael Gove’s “magnificent seven, tendered his resignation during the investigation, but was later dismissed.

A spokesman for Hackney Learning Trust said the away days took place while The Learning Trust was a private company prior to it rejoining the council.

The “important training” helped set the strategy which contributed to the Trust’s “excellent record,” he said.

He continued: “Since Hackney Learning Trust returned to the council’s control in 2012, away days have been held in house or with partner organisations.”

Mr Wallace started out as head teacher of Woodberry Down in 2001 and was deemed so successful he was drafted in to turn around four more underperforming schools – London Fields in Westgate Street, Whitmore in Bridport Place, Hoxton, Mandeville in Oswald Street, Lower Clapton and Burbage in Ivy Street, Hoxton, which all came under the umbrella of the Best Start Federation.