23 December 2019

Charlotte Dunne's statement on her catering activities in full

This message was circulated by Charlotte Dunne on Mon 23 December 2019:

"I wish to respond to a statement made by the Trust in its Annual Report which was signposted to the Ashley School community on the last day of the Autumn Term 2019.

The statement in the report says there has been material irregularity, impropriety and non-compliance in breach of the funding agreement between the Academy Trust and the Secretary of State. It then goes on to describe a procurement of catering services by “a senior member of staff” to his spouse.
Although the report has not named the individuals, I am aware that parents have identified them as being Richard and me.

The Trust did not allow us to respond to this allegation before making this statement and what has been stated in the report is misleading and I want to address this.

Firstly, the Trust were well aware of my catering company. Indeed, it was Nigel Stapleton, Chair of Governors and the Trust’s Chair of Finance, who first requested my catering services for a Governors Thank-You meal in July 2012, and again in 2015 and 2018.

The catering arrangements referred to in the Annual Report are in respect of workshops which were run by the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, not Ashley School, and they were for teachers from a range of schools. Although Ashley School collected in the monies on behalf of the Prince’s School, it was the Prince’s School that requested my catering services for their workshops.

For the avoidance of doubt, any payments to my catering company by Ashley School were authorised by Di Goodhugh, the Finance Officer at the time and the current Head of Finance at the Trust, and signed off by the Deputy Headteacher, Jackie Stevens.

The payment total that has been referenced of £6,900 was for 17 workshops and 34 days of work. Over half of this cost was for food and equipment. I charged £100 per day and each workshop needed one day of food preparation and one day to run the catering for the workshop. I earned £1,600 in the academic year 2014-15 and £1,600 in the academic year 2015-16. The final £200 was for the workshop in November 2018.

The Chair of Governors, Nigel Stapleton, was delighted to welcome HRH the Prince of Wales when he visited the school and saw the Prince’s School’s workshop in the Harmony Centre in February 2016 that I catered for. He was fully involved in this Royal Visit. He did not raise any concerns with regard to my catering role or any conflict of interest.

On Monday, 10th June of this year, the Trust’s Head of Finance, Di Goodhugh, emailed my husband to complete a form for the last workshop catering that I did on Wednesday, 14th November 2018 (a new caterer was appointed in November 2018 some ten months before this allegation even surfaced). However, when my husband requested the form for signing, the Trust’s Head of Finance did not send it. This failure to set it out on a declaration of interests is an administrative oversight and it is incredulous to suggest that the Trust were not aware of it.

As set out above, neither Richard nor I were able to give the above evidence to the Trust before they made their decision. However, Richard wrote to the Trust on 13th December 2019 to refute this and other allegations, but the Trust has refused to consider his evidence. I consider that this allegation has only been raised now and made so public as a means of further discrediting Richard and his reputation.

This ongoing treatment of Richard by the Trust in its desire to not only get rid of him, but also to damage him and his reputation as much as possible is in stark contrast to the values of trust, love, courage, respect and integrity that the Trust claims to live by.

Richard and I want to thank you all for your ongoing support. It is very much appreciated.

We wish you all a Happy Christmas and we look forward to a happier 2020

Charlotte Dunne."

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