Schools may go to court in row over bill for top teacher

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A DISPUTE has broken out between two Yorkshire schools after one threatened legal action over an alleged unpaid bill for specialist support provided by an elite headteacher.

Ossett Academy, near Wakefield, has claimed Balby Carr Community Sports College, in Doncaster, owes £29,000 for work carried out in the 2009 autumn term.

The dispute revolves around an agreement for Ossett, where headteacher Martin Shevill is a National Leader of Education, to provide expertise at Balby Carr, which was perceived to be in danger of being classed as failing by Ofsted.

Under the agreement, which was signed off by Doncaster Council and due to run for two terms, Balby Carr was to pay Ossett £80,000 for specialist help from Mr Shevill, plus a maths and an English teacher, and other technical support.

But the deal collapsed amid acrimony in December 2009 although there is disagreement over who terminated the agreement. The Doncaster school did pay £10,000 but has refused to pay a further invoice of £29,094.90.

Balby Carr’s chair of governors Julia Cotterill said Ossett’s staff had only been on site for a total of 115 hours and the “quantity and level of support was considerably lower than we had expected.”

It is understood that Balby Carr felt it could cope without outside help and the school felt vindicated when Ofsted classed it as satisfactory in November 2009.

Ms Cotterill said Ossett had “vigorously pursued this (£29,094) through a firm of solicitors who have threatened court action. “As a result of not being able to satisfy the local authority’s best value financial procedures we regrettably have had to take legal advice ourselves and through our solicitors have offered what we feel is a just and equitable settlement.”

The offer is thought to be comfortably short of the £29,000.

Ossett head Martin Shevill said: “I’m not sure Balby Carr wanted us to be involved but Doncaster Council thought we should be because they thought they were looking at the school going into an Ofsted category.

“There was certainly more than £10,000 worth of work done. It would be appropriate for Balby Carr to come to some kind of compromise with Ossett to pay an amount of money that is realistic and that we feel is appropriate.”

Chris Pratt, Doncaster Council’s director of children’s services, said: “We have been trying to resolve the differences between the two schools over the unpaid notice and would want to see it resolved without the need for legal action.

“Our internal audit team has advised Balby Carr School that it needs to be satisfied with the service provided in order to authorise the payment in accordance with school financial regulations and ultimately it is their decision.”