Council’s Lead For Children Says Evidence Justified Head’s Suspension

Councillor David Pearson

The Council’s lead member for children, David Pearson, says what he has seen from the school auditors’ interim report, justifies the suspension of the former head, Bryce Wilby, and the subsequent investigation.

But David says he’d like to think it’s a case of Mr Wilby not managing money properly, rather than dishonesty.

The alleged financial irregularities appear to be bad accounting rather than any matter of theft, he says.

ScillyToday understands that Cornwall Council auditors scrutinised the school travel budget of around £82,000. There wasn’t adequate paperwork for 43 transactions, worth around £4,700, but further investigation and tracing of payments reduced that figure to £3,287 that could not be reconciled with the school bank account.

From Radio Scilly

The interview with Cllr David Pearson on Radio Scilly

Councillor Pearson also alleges that inappropriate content was found on a school computer, which was used by Mr Wilby. This wasn’t outlined as a reason for the suspension in May.

David says police IT experts at their headquarters in Middlemoor were used to access the password-protected laptop, which David says was also protected by facial recognition software, and he confirmed that the police have not pursued this matter further.

He said the material was not, as far as he was aware, illegal and he didn’t want to make a moral judgement. He says the images are not of children. He also confirmed that he had not seen the alleged laptop material before making the press statement.

David Pearson didn’t have details of how the computer investigation had been undertaken but said education director Penny Penn-Howard had assured him that the proper procedures had taken place. However, when pressed, he confirmed that he was not aware whether a backup of the computer had been made before leaving the school site.

In a solicitors’ letter issued by the then school governors in June, they alleged that material and equipment had been seized from the school without a proper record being made of what was handed to them.

Councillor Pearson says he was briefed by Ms Penn-Howard ahead of her presenting the information to governors, which led to their decision to suspend Mr Wilby. He agreed with her actions and that the governors’ decision was correct in the circumstances to ensure any investigation was not impeded.

David says the work of the auditors continues and a final report will be presented to Full Council at the end of September.

David says he felt the time was right to release the information, as, since the end of August, Bryce has no longer been employed by the Council. He says his aim is to, “to alleviate the concern in the community” and was making himself available for anyone who wants to discuss the issues raised.

Mr Wilby hasn’t been questioned by the investigating team yet as his union representative has been on annual leave.

We asked Bryce for his view and he said: “It would be inappropriate to make any comment about an incomplete and confidential audit report. I expect to meet with the auditors shortly and will make an appropriate statement afterwards.”

David Pearson didn’t consult with the governors before issuing this statement and he says that’s appropriate in his role as lead member for children.

Chairman of governors, Ben Julian, was unaware that the Council press office was issuing a press release and says it doesn’t speak for himself or the governing body.


23 Responses to Council’s Lead For Children Says Evidence Justified Head’s Suspension