Former principal of Sawtry Village Academy pleads guilty to fraud charges

Cambridge Crown Court

Cambridge Crown Court - Credit: Archant

The former principal of Sawtry Village Academy has pleaded guilty to multiple counts of fraud.

As well as five counts of fraud, James Stewart also pleaded guilty to an additional charge of misconduct in a public office when appearing at court back in March.

The fraud charges relate to thousands of pounds worth of expense claims made by Stewart.

Alan Stevens, the school’s former vice principal, was also charged and pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by abuse of position in relation to expense claims.

The charges can only now be brought to light after reporting restrictions were lifted following Stevens’ appearance at Cambridge Crown Court in August.

Both men are due to be sentenced on October 6.

In response to the revelations, academy leaders have called on parents and local politicians to back the school’s bid to move into a new era, leaving behind what they described as “the crimes of the past”.

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Sarah Wilson, principal of the academy, said: “For too long these crimes have cast a shadow over our school. When James Stewart resigned in 2014 the school was in special measures and was facing a financial crisis with serious personnel issues, a declining student roll and without the leadership capacity to recover alone.

“With the guilty pleas now public, we can seek to move on.”

Stewart resigned as principal of the school in 2014 following a damning inspection report from Ofsted, in which the school was placed in special measures, and an investigation was launched by the Education Funding Agency.

Following Stewart’s departure, Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust took over the governance of the school in January 2015.

Shirley Jamieson, chairman of Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust said, “The school’s new leaders, its staff and students have made huge progress in putting the past behind us.

“But we cannot ignore the truth that these actions put the long-term sustainability of the school at risk. Not only has the school lost significant sums of money as a result of these behaviours but the absence of leadership during this period means that we are still trying to catch up on years of under investment in its building condition.”

Sawtry Village Academy is inviting parents and members of the village community to a public meeting at 5.30pm at the school on September 20 when it will be outlining its plans for a public campaign to support a major investment programme in school buildings.