Controversial appointment for Leeds school

Liam Nolan.
Liam Nolan.
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A “superhead” who quit a troubled schools chain after a damning report identified financial irregularities has been appointed as the new headteacher at a Leeds school.

Liam Nolan has signed a one-year contract at the Ruth Gorse Academy and will take up his post in September.

His appointment comes in the wake of a major controversy at the Perry Beeches Academy Trust, in Birmingham.

A government investigation in March last year that found the trust had funnelled £1.3 million to a private company without following proper procedures. The private firm then paid a “second salary” to CEO Mr Nolan, with payments totalling £160,000 over two years on top of his £120,000 salary. Mr Nolan quit in May last year, with the governing body later standing down, and the trust is now set to be disbanded.

However, school leaders at the Ruth Gorse Academy Trust say Mr Nolan has acknowledged his mistakes, remains an “exceptional principal” and is the right person to drive the school forward.

In a joint statement Sir John Townsley, the trust’s executive principal, and Terry Elliot, chair of the governing body at the Ruth Gorse Academy, said: “While some may have reservations about the appointment of Liam, we have gone to considerable lengths to explore the nature of the circumstances surrounding his departure from his previous role. Along with Liam, we are able to acknowledge there were failings in the way a number of financial transactions were handled.”

The leaders assured staff, parents and the community that strict financial procedures were in place and this would continue, adding: “Having met with Liam, we feel that he has been humbled by his experience and is able to clearly explain where and why the failings happened.” Current headteacher Rebekah Taylor will remain at the school as vice principal.